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After two years in Washington as the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kenneth S. Rogoff will return to his position as a professor of economics at Harvard next year.
Rogoff announced his resignation on Tuesday. In an interview yesterday, Rogoff said he had mixed emotions about his decision to leave.
“[Being at the IMF] really puts you at the pulse of the global financial system,” Rogoff said. “But at the same time, you don’t get time for reflection.”
In September 2001, just his second month at the IMF, Rogoff generated controversy when he declared that a recession in the United States was a “done deal”—even as other top economists downplayed the downturn, attributing it to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“When Sept. 11 happened our main concern was not to overstate it,” Rogoff said. “It was quite clear that the U.S. was on the cusp [of a recession].”
Rogoff added that in his job at the IMF, it was crucial that he be straightforward.
“I made very candid remarks and it served me and the institution very well,” he said.
And Rogoff said that his decision to leave—which he said yesterday took his colleagues at the IMF by surprise—was most strongly influenced by a desire to return to Cambridge.
“I think the most important element of it was a feeling that I had missed teaching and research and being at Harvard,” Rogoff said. “That’s really the nub of it.”
While Rogoff said his immediate plans did not include a return to the world of policy in D.C., he added that “it’s hard to know what life will bring.”
“I will be delighted to see Ken Rogoff back at Harvard,” said Baker Professor of Economics Martin S. Feldstein ’61. “Rogoff is a first-rate economist and now will have the extra insights and knowledge that come from spending time in a key policy position.”
“It will make our department even stronger to have him back,” Feldstein said.
Rogoff said that Feldstein and University President Lawrence H. Summers both gave him advice on navigating the world of Washington, D.C.
“One thing Larry Summers said to me was that when you’re an academic going to Washington, you have to listen to the questions that people ask, and not to tell people what they ought to ask,” he said.
Rogoff has published three books and numerous articles and working papers on varied economic subjects during his career. In 1996, he co-authored the influential 832-page graduate textbook Foundations of International Macroeconomics along with Maurice Obstfeld.
Rogoff said he will return immediately to teaching at Harvard after the IMF’s annual meetings in Dubai, United Arab Emirates this September.
Rogoff was appointed to his position at the IMF in June of 2001, and he was granted a two-year leave of absence by the University to pursue the directorship of the IMF Research Department.
IMF Managing Director Horst Kohler lauded Rogoff’s tenure in a statement to the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund.
“As Director of the Research Department, Ken Rogoff has made important progress in carrying forward a broad research program on topics related to international finance and macroeconomic policy in industrialized and developing economics,” Kohler said.
Prior to joining the Harvard faculty in September 1999, Rogoff was the Robertson professor of international affairs at Princeton University. Earlier in his career, Rogoff served on the staff at the IMF and the Federal Reserve Board and as a visiting scholar at the World Bank.
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