M-RCBG Senior Fellow-Led Study Group: Reza Baqir and Aparna Mathur
Friday, April 28, 1:00-2:00pm, M-RCBG Conference Room (B-503)
Join M-RCBG Senior Fellows, Reza Baqir, former central bank governor of Pakistan, and Aparna Mathur, former Senior Economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers for a discussion of how two countries dealt with the COVID-19 crisis. The discussion will unpack how Pakistan was able to come together across its different internal factions to provide a timely and effective economic and health response to the Covid crisis. Unlike nearly all countries in the world Pakistan reduced its public debt and deficits during Covid while generating a quick economic recovery. Similarly, what was the US response and how did Congress come together to pass more than $2 trillion in relief programs for households and small businesses? The discussion will also bring out what lessons handling of the Covid crisis may hold for the handling the current economic challenges faced by Pakistan and the US.
This study group / discussion is open to all. Registration is not necessary.
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Reza Baqir served as the Governor of Pakistan’s central bank, the State Bank of Pakistan, during May 2019 – May 2022. He led Pakistan’s financial response to the Covid-19 pandemic that led to a quick economic rebound while lowering public debt and preserving foreign exchange reserves over 2020-21. During his time as Governor, he also initiated a series of initiatives to digitize Pakistan’s financial sector to promote innovation and inclusion. These included (i) a new digital banking initiative for overseas Pakistanis that generated close to US$5 billion in in foreign currency funding; (ii) relaxations in Pakistan’s foreign exchange regulatory framework that spurred a wave of foreign investments in startups and fintechs; (iii) a new regulatory framework to license digital banks in Pakistan; (iv) Pakistan’s first instant payment system Raast; and (v) a dedicated policy—Banking on Equality—to support women’s access to finance. In June 2019, Reza successfully negotiated a new IMF program, and completed 6 subsequent reviews, that stabilized the economy. He led two landmark reforms in this period: introduction of a flexible exchange rate regime, a first for Pakistan, and changes to the central bank law to strengthen its independence. Before Pakistan’s central bank, Reza worked for 19 years at the International Monetary Fund and 2 years at the World Bank. He headed the IMF’s office in Egypt during 2017-19 as IMF Senior Resident Representative and oversaw the successful implementation of the IMF’s loan program, then the largest in the Middle East region. For 4 years he headed the IMF's Debt Policy Division that oversees IMF’s work on sovereign debt sustainability and restructuring, worked on several sovereign debt restructurings, and represented the IMF in the meetings of the Paris Club. Previously he was Deputy Chief of the Emerging Markets Division overseeing IMF’s loans in emerging markets and policies towards managing capital flows. Reza’s research has been published in the Journal of Political Economy and the Quarterly Journal of Economics, amongst other journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley and an A.B. (Magna cum Laude) in Economics from Harvard University. Reza’s work at Harvard will focus on efficient and workable international frameworks for timely resolution of sovereign debt distress in emerging markets. His faculty sponsor is Kenneth Rogoff, Professor of Economics and Maurits C. Boas Chair of International Economics at Harvard University.
Aparna Mathur is a Senior Research Manager in Economics at Amazon. In this role, she tracks and conducts research to help identify labor and employment related challenges faced by Amazon’s domestic and global workforce, with a view to informing best policy. Prior to Amazon, she spent a year as a Senior Economist at the Council of Economic Advisers. She joined the Council as part of the COVID-19 response task force at the peak of the crisis in April 2020 and worked with epidemiologists on the health aspects of the crisis, while also tracking the economic downturn that came with the lockdowns. Prior to joining CEA, for fifteen years, she was a resident scholar in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. At AEI, she directed the AEI-Brookings Project on Paid Family and Medical Leave, building bipartisan momentum on paid leave, for which she was recognized in the Politico 50 list for 2017. She also co-authored a novel empirical paper on the incidence of the corporate income tax on workers, which became a prominent policy debate during the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017. Her academic research has focused on income inequality and mobility, tax policy, labor markets and small businesses. She has published in several top scholarly journals including the Journal of Public Economics, the National Tax Journal and the Journal of Health Economics, testified several times before Congress and published numerous articles in the popular press on issues of policy relevance, including on her own blog at Forbes. Her work has been cited in leading news magazines such as the Economist, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. She has regularly provided commentary on prominent radio and television shows such as NPR’s Marketplace and the Diane Rehm Show, as well as CNBC and C-SPAN. She has been an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. She received her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2005, and is currently serving on the University of Maryland Economics Leadership Council. She is also on the Board of the National Academy of Social Insurance as well as the National Economists Club. While an M-RCBG Senior Fellow, Aparna will work on a project: Frayed Protection: The U.S. Safety Net and Pandemic Emergency Measures During COVID-19. Her faculty advisor is Jason Furman, Aetna Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Email: email@example.com