Ashima Goyal: A Matter of Interest

Ashima Goyal: A Matter of Interest

From challenging conventional thinking by pursuing economics as a career, Ashima Goyal now helps drive the country's economic parameters

Ashima Goyal, 66, Member, RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee -- Photograph by Milind Shelte Ashima Goyal, 66, Member, RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee -- Photograph by Milind Shelte

The career path for Ashima Goyal, whose parents were doctors, was well laid out. In fact, a studious Ashima did join Delhi University’s Hindu College for pre-medical but soon switched to BA Economics, and then completed MA, M. Phil and PhD in Economics from University of Mumbai. “It was by fluke,” grins Goyal, who was the odd woman out pursuing economics those days. An academician abroad once told her she was in the wrong country and wrong gender to do well (in the economics profession). “It sort of challenged me to prove this wrong,” says the soft-spoken Goyal.

Sitting in the lush green campus of Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR) in Mumbai, Goyal, Emeritus Professor, says she had a strong inclination to understand the Indian economy. “Things like India’s slow growth post-Independence interested me,” she says. Joining IGIDR was a turning point in her career. She was juggling managing home, a young son, and her PhD. But it was also an exciting period with the arrival of the internet, the reform process, and also engagement with the outside world. In 2017, the government appointed her part-time member of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, where she rubbed shoulders with economists like Bibek Debroy, Surjit Bhalla and Rathin Roy.

Five years ago, she wrote a paper on “Abductive Reasoning in Macroeconomics”. Her hypothesis was that if prolonged growth slowdown does not reduce inflation, it suggests underlying aggregate supply is elastic but volatile, so that supply-side issues, not excess demand, are primary inflation drivers. It is typified by the post-pandemic world when demand collapsed, yet inflation went up because of supply-side bottlenecks driven by the lockdowns. Goyal, who is now part of the Reserve Bank of India’s six-member monetary policy committee (MPC), plays a big role in setting interest rates in the country. She is happy now as more and more women are pursuing economics. “Things have changed dramatically,” says Goyal. They have indeed.