Former Union Finance Secretary and India’s representative at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the 1990s, KP Geethakrishnan, passed away on Monday. He was 86.
Born on November 12, 1935, Geethakrishnan completed his BSc (Hons) from Presidency College in Chennai between 1952-55. Geethakrishnan first began his career with the State Bank of India and later joined the Indian Administrative Service (IAS).
A 1958 batch IAS officer from the Tamil Nadu cadre, Geethakrishnan spent a major part of his career with the Finance Department of the Tamil Nadu government, and later served as one of the top bureaucrats in the Union Finance Ministry.
He served as the Expenditure Secretary in the Chandra Shekhar government in the 1990s. In 1991, Geethakrishnan became the Finance Secretary in charge of the Revenue Department during the PV Narasimha Rao government.
Known for his non-controversial style of functioning and his commitment to economic reforms, Geethakrishnan was handpicked by then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh during India’s radical economic reform programme initiated in 1991. In 1991, when India faced the balance of payments (BoP) crisis due to a huge macroeconomic imbalance, the IMF imposed several conditions to grant fresh loans to the country.
As the Finance Secretary, Geethakrishnan was instrumental in devising creative means to boost revenue collections and to meet the IMF’s conditionality of specific fiscal deficit numbers. His approach was dubbed the ‘Geethakrishnan Effect’ in the Finance Ministry’s lexicon.
“He was one of India’s eminent finance secretaries who held the portfolio at a time when India was passing through a difficult situation. He was extremely sharp and was always quick to find remedies for the problems on hand,” recalled C Rangarajan, who was the RBI Governor when Geethakrishnan was Finance Secretary
In 1993, Geethakrishnan retired as Union Finance Secretary. After retirement, the government nominated him as an Executive Director in the board of IMF.
In February 2000, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government set up the Expenditure Reforms Commission (ERC) under the chairmanship of Geethakrishnan to find a solution to the problem of high rate of growth of non-developmental expenditure by the government, and to begin the process of downsizing the government in a systematic way towards reducing the role and administrative structure of the government.
By mid-2001, the Commission had submitted 10 detailed reports, mostly on downsizing Central government ministries and departments to effect savings in administrative expenditure and on reducing different subsidies. Among other recommendations made relating to the staff strength, the ERC recommended abolition of around 42,000 posts.
He is survived by his wife, two daughters, and son-in-law S Krishnan, who is the Industry Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu.