Raghuram Rajan: The Economist Who Charted a New Course for India’s Financial System
Raghuram Rajan is a prominent Indian economist who has made significant contributions to the world of finance and economics. He served as the 23rd Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, the country’s central bank, from 2013 to 2016. During his tenure, he introduced several innovative policies to steer the Indian economy towards a more stable and sustainable growth path.
Born in Bhopal, India in 1963, Rajan completed his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. He later pursued a postgraduate degree in business administration from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.
After completing his doctoral studies, Rajan joined the faculty of the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. He quickly rose through the ranks and became a professor of finance. He also served as the Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from 2003 to 2007.
Rajan’s work focuses on financial markets, corporate finance, and macroeconomics. He is widely respected for his research on banking regulations, which has helped to shape the policies of several central banks across the world.
In 2005, Rajan famously sounded the alarm about the impending global financial crisis in a speech at the annual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He warned that financial innovation and loose monetary policy were creating a dangerous environment in which asset bubbles could form and cause a collapse in the financial system. His remarks were widely criticized at the time, but they proved prescient as the financial crisis unfolded in 2008.
Rajan’s experience in academia and at the IMF made him a natural choice to lead the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) when he was appointed Governor in 2013. He faced several challenges on taking office, including a slowing economy, high inflation, and a large fiscal deficit.
One of Rajan’s first actions as Governor was to introduce a new monetary policy framework known as the “inflation targeting regime.” Under this framework, the RBI set a target for inflation and used interest rate adjustments to meet that target. This was a departure from the earlier system, where the RBI used a complex combination of interest rates, reserve requirements, and open market operations to control inflation.
The impact of this new policy was significant. Inflation, which had been hovering above 10% for several years, began to come down rapidly. By the end of 2016, it had fallen to less than 5%, which was within the RBI’s target range.
Rajan also introduced several other policies to stabilize the Indian economy. He tightened banking regulations, introduced measures to reduce non-performing loans, and encouraged foreign investment in the country. He also launched a program to expand financial inclusion, which aimed to bring banking services to the approximately 400 million Indians who did not have a bank account.
Despite the success of his policies, Rajan faced criticism from within the government and from some sections of the business community. Some accused him of being too hawkish on inflation and of not doing enough to boost economic growth. Others were unhappy with his attempts to regulate the banking sector more closely.
Rajan’s tenure as Governor ended in 2016, and he returned to academia. He currently serves as a professor of finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Rajan’s contributions to the world of economics and finance have been widely recognized. He was awarded the Fischer Black Prize in 2003, one of the highest honors in the field of finance. In 2016, he was named the “Central Banker of the Year” by Euromoney magazine.
Rajan’s legacy as Governor of the Reserve Bank of India is a mixed one. While his policies helped to stabilize the Indian economy and bring inflation under control, they also faced significant opposition. However, his innovative approach to monetary policy and his efforts to expand financial inclusion have set the stage for continued reforms in the Indian financial system. Rajan remains an influential figure in the world of economics and his contributions will continue to shape policy decisions for years to come.