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November 16, 2018

Kenya’s son to head India’s reserve bank

Governor-designate of Reserve Bank of India, Urjit Patel. FILE
Governor-designate of Reserve Bank of India, Urjit Patel. FILE

Reserved, observant and cool fellow is how most childhood friends of Kenyan-born governor-designate of Reserve Bank of India, Urjit Patel remember him.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi settled on Patel, 52, three days ago, after months of speculations over who will replace outgoing governor Raghuram Rajan's.

Rajan is scheduled to leave office on September 4, catapulting the former student of Jamhuri High School, Urjit to the helm of RBI - India's central bank.

"He was a very observant guy who would study situations and people before making his deductions. He was also a very calculating person," recalls his friend Minesh Patel who operates a business at Industrial area.

Patel's father was a business partner to Urjit's late father Ravindra Patel who owned Rexo Products, a chemical company.

Umrit, described by analysts and the media as being very "hawk-eyed" on inflation matters, attended Visa Oshwal Primary School in Parklands.

He lived with his parents near Desai Road in Ngara before leaving Kenya for the UK and later the US for his graduate studies. Urjit, a well-educated economist, completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the London School of Economics, and proceeded to study Master of Philosophy from Oxford University in 1986, and a PhD from Yale University in 1990.

Between1990 to 1995, he worked at the IMF as a Kenyan citizen where he was in charge of the US, India, Myanammar and Bahamas desks.

In 2013, however, he applied for an Indian passport after which he was named deputy RBI governor on recommendations of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"He has very big shoes to fill given that the former governor was considered like a 'rockstar' with policies that led to positive macroeconomic results," said financial analyst Aly Khan Satchu.

"It appears his appointment is Modi's way of seeking to exert more control of the RBI given he (Urjit) is an appointee of the  prime minister, I mean how free is he to carry out his role?" he posed.

Like his Kenyan counterpart, Central Bank governor Patrick Njoroge, Urjit is a bachelor. He currently lives in Mumbai with his mother who is in her 80s.

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