ISET hosted Dr. Alex Mourmouras, Chief of the European Division of IMF
Dr. Alex Mourmouras, chief of the European Division of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), started working for the IMF in Washington, D.C., about 20 years ago. At ISET he shared the rich experiences he gained as being a leading IMF economist for many years with an audience of several faculty members and a large group of students. The latter were so fascinated by Dr. Mourmouras’ account that they expressed their interest through an extensive sequence of qualified questions after the talk.
The talk was entitled “IMF 101” and contained a tour d’horizon of the IMF’s role in the world economy. Furthermore, Dr. Mourmouras gave a brief overview of the IMF’s history and the reasons which led to its foundation in 1944 at the Bretton Wood conference.
As a Greek national who is probably concerned about the well-being of his home country, Dr. Mourmouras’ analysis of the current European debt crisis was particularly interesting. As Greece abandoned the Drachma and swapped it for the Euro, the monetary policy is not determined in Athens anymore, but in Frankfurt. This deprives Greece from devaluating its currency and gaining back competitiveness in a swift and relatively convenient way. The only option which remains for Greece is the “hard way” of regaining competitiveness, namely the reduction of unit labor costs. For achieving this, technological changes, upgrading of human capital, improved organization for reducing overhead costs, and capital stock increases are instruments which only work in the long run. The only possibility to get unit labor costs down within a short time horizon is lowering wages – a painful process, particularly difficult to implement in a country like Greece with a relatively high trade union density and a population which is already suffering from a heavy economic recession.
It was obvious that Dr. Mourmouras’ talk drew the students’ attention to the IMF as a potential employer of economists. Yet as he stressed, working as an IMF economist requires a Ph.D. degree. This is not an insurmountable entry barrier, as in every year, a considerable number of ISET graduates go to Europe or the US for pursuing their doctoral studies.