Harvard professor Gita Gopinath, who was appointed as the economic advisor to Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, told a television news channel that she rejects all ideological labels pinned on her.
“This controversy came as a big surprise to me. I was very surprised when I saw the reaction that came out because I think of myself as a technocrat. I am a technocrat. I am a trained economist. I think about issues. I use my economic training to devise solutions. I am purely a technocrat and I reject all ideological labels,” she told Asianet News in an interview.
Gopinath’s appointment had stirred a controversy in Kerala when Communist leaders and politburo members had raised alarms about the state government taking advice from a person who is reportedly a passionate advocate of neo-liberal policies and market economy. However, CM Vijayan took a firm stand saying there was nothing wrong in sharing views with Gopinath, a Malayali who has earned international reputation for her work.
Gopinath, in the interview, made it clear that the term ‘neo-liberal’ does not have a good definition.
“It’s mostly used when you are angry with somebody or dislike someone, you call them a neo-liberal. Because otherwise there is no concrete definition to it,” she said.
The Harvard professor, who is in Kerala, held talks with Finance Minister Thomas Issac and was scheduled to meet the chief minister as well. The finance minister’s office clarified Gopinath’s visit was a ‘courtesy call.’ She told reporters that her role was confined to advising the chief minister and making connections for the state government departments.
“It is then up to the Chief Minister to consider my advice, and up to the relevant departments to continue conversations with the various sector experts. Given this advisory nature of the appointment and my location, I do not anticipate frequent interactions with the media to explain government policies or my opinion on those,” she said in an email statement.
Gopinath, who hails from Kannur, said in the interview that some of her summer vacations were spent in Kerala.
“Being born a girl in India, it matters a lot what family you are born into. Being born into a Malayali family that followed a matriarchal system, I always felt loved and had a high sense of self-worth. There was never a perception that I was second-class relative to boys. That gave me confidence,” she said.