Newsmaker: No ordinary economist

Tags: Newsmakers, News
His research reports are now a mandatory reading for all those looking for leads on the economy with most of his predictions coming right on a number of economic trends. Months before the mammoth demonetisation exercise of last year, he had seen it coming. His predictions of inflation and other macro economic trends seldom go wrong.

In April 2016, Soumya Kanti Ghosh had predicted – based on the trends in the currency movements – that demonetisation of high value notes was possibly in the offing. It came out correct on November 8, 2016 when the Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes from the system.

Similarly, in March 2016, in a TV show, he said that inflation will decelerate to sub 4 per cent towards the end of 2016. No one believed him then as rainfall was deficient in all the regions and many economists were predicting inflation to rise. But Ghosh surprised all with his accurate predictions.

Several times in 2014 and 2015, Ghosh rightly guessed that Fed rate hike would only happen after elections, and it happened exactly like that.

Dr Ghosh, a widely respected economist, is currently the group chief economic advisor at State Bank of India. He has more than two and half decades of experience with the corporate world, academic institutions, research bodies and an industry chamber. He has worked with reputed MNCs in leadership positions on areas related to economics, risk management and Basel II implementation for banks in India, Middle East & South Asia. He is a visiting faculty to IIT Kanpur. He is a famous face on news channels, newspapers and magazines and a regular columnist for many of them besides being on the peer group of IIT Jodhpur evaluation committee, and a member of the Indian Banks Association monetary policy committee.

Ghosh’s research report in March of this calendar year stating that India’s unemployment rate is seeing a sharp decline was tweeted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. Similarly his report on Jan Dhan Yojana was tweeted by the then minister of state for finance Jayant Sinha. He has been on several committees including the famous Urjit Patel committee in 2014 on introducing new liquidity framework that moved to using liquidity as a tool for faster monetary transmission.

However life has not been easy for Ghosh who has faced many financial and emotional ups and downs primarily being the loss of his parents and in-laws.

Early Childhood and Education: Ghosh was born in a middle class family on October 13, 1966. His father Tapan Kumar Ghosh was a medical correspondent in a pharma company while mother Jharna Rani Ghosh was a homemaker. While his father was in a low paying job, the parents did not compromise on their children’s education. Both Soumya and his younger brother studied in a convent school – St Lawrence School, Kolkata. While Ghosh had a liking for economics, his plans to study the subject were further deepened when his close cousin and her husband both topped the University in economics.

Ghosh then enrolled himself in Ashutosh College and topped his college in BSc economics in 1989. But his happiness was short-lived as his mother passed away in a week post his results. While financial constraints were already weighing on Ghosh, his mother’s loss was a big emotional blow.

He then moved to study at the Delhi School of Economics for a master’s degree but had no money to pay for hostel accommodation and would stay sometimes with relatives or hostel friends. He decided to take up a job at the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration to judiciously save money to enroll for a PhD in Jawaharlal Nehru University besides giving tuitions.

Ghosh has also worked as a Senior Fellow, ICRIER, India’s leading think tank and was also Chief Economist, FICCI. His areas of interest are financial markets, monetary economics, public finance and risk management.

“My parents were notable inspirations, specifically my mother who passed away when I was very young. After that it was a lot of struggle in my life – mentally, physically and financially. My second best strength in my life is my wife Romila Ghosh who has stood behind me in all ups and downs of my life like a rock since we were married 16 years back,” says Ghosh. The couple has a son (studying in class nine) and a daughter (studying in class 5).

Candid Opinions: Ghosh has at times been critical of the government too. In March this year he said that the GDP estimates put up by the CSO were higher. He recommends fast tracking the issue of banks asset quality through a sector specific approach that would be a game changer in India. Another recommendation is to push exports.

Talking on his next prediction, Ghosh says, “My latest prediction is that don’t be surprised if inflation goes close to 2 per cent pretty soon, possibly within next 1-2 months, given the pace of vegetable price increase and GST implementation.”

“Two months back, I have already said that oil prices will slip below $50 per barrel in the second half of this year and also in the next financial year,” he adds.

This too seems to be falling in place with oil prices falling more than 4 per cent with the market hoping that that oil producers could reach a last minute deal to deepen the cuts or extend them further until mid-2018.


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