Montek Singh Ahluwalia is an Indian economist and civil servant who served as the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India from 6 July 2004 to 26 May 2014. In 2001, he was appointed as the first director of the Independent Evaluation Office at the International Monetary Fund. Montek holds the position of a distinguished fellow at the Centre for Social and Economic Progress, a New Delhi-based public policy think tank. He is a recipient of Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award in India.
Montek Singh Ahluwalia was born on Wednesday, 24 November 1943 (age 79 years; as of 2022) in Rawalpindi, Punjab Province, British India (modern-day Punjab, Pakistan). His zodiac sign is Sagittarius. He did his schooling at St. Patrick’s High School, Secunderabad, and Delhi Public School, Mathura Road, New Delhi. Montek attended St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi, Delhi, to pursue a B.A. (Hons) degree. He obtained an M. A. in philosophy, politics, and economics from Magdalen College, University of Oxford, Oxford, England, where he was a Rhodes scholar. Thereafter, he pursued an M. Phil. from St. Antony’s College, Oxford. While studying at the University of Oxford, Montek Singh was the president of the Oxford Union. Montek Singh Ahluwalia also has to his credit several honorary degrees, including an honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law from the University of Oxford and an honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee. He has also received an honorary degree from Magdalen College, Oxford, England.
Height (approx.): 5′ 8″
Hair Colour: Salt & Pepper
Eye Colour: Brown
Parents & Siblings
Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s father, Jagmohan Singh, was a clerk with the Defence Accounts Department. His mother’s name is Pushp Kaur. His brother, Sanjeev Ahluwalia, is a retired IAS Officer.
Wife & Children
Montek Singh Ahluwalia was married to Isher Judge Ahluwalia, an Indian economist, public policy researcher, and professor. In an interview, Montek shared that he first met Isher when he was working at the World Bank and Isher was doing PhD at MIT. He said,
A friend of mine was in MIT. He knew Isher. One day he called me and said that a good Indian girl is coming as a summer intern in the IMF, so you meet him. Then I talked to Isher and invited her for lunch. Such things kept growing and then after a year we got married too.”
Isher Judge Ahluwalia died on 26 September 2020 from grade IV glioblastoma. Montek has two sons, Pavan Ahluwalia, Founder & Managing Director at Laburnum Capital, and Aman Ahluwalia, a lawyer. Pavan Ahluwalia is married to Sarah Jacob, a journalist and editor.
Montek Singh Ahluwalia started his career in 1968 with the World Bank. In 1971, he was appointed as in charge of the Income Distribution Division in the Development Research Centre of the World Bank, becoming the youngest “Division Chief” in the World Bank’s bureaucracy; he was 28 years old at that time. After working with the World Bank for around a decade, Montek Singh Ahluwalia returned to India in 1979, where he served as the Economic Adviser in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India. He then held a series of senior positions including Special Secretary to the Prime Minister, Commerce Secretary, Secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs in the Finance Ministry, and Finance Secretary.
Subsequently, he served as a member of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. In 1988, Montek Singh was appointed as the Member of the Planning Commission. In 2001, he was appointed as the first director of the Independent Evaluation Office of the International Monetary Fund by the Board of IMF. He assumed office on 9 July 2001. As the Director of the International Monetary Fund, Montek Singh supervised several studies critical of various aspects of the functioning of the IMF. He resigned from the post of Director in June 2004 to take up the position of Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission as a part of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government in New Delhi. Montek Singh held the position in 2014. While serving as the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India, Montek Singh Ahluwalia administered the preparation of the Eleventh Five-year Plan (2008-2012) – “Towards Faster and More Inclusive Growth” and Twelfth Five-year Plan (2013-2017) – Faster, More Inclusive and Sustainable Growth.
He has been a key figure in the Indian economic policy. In January 2021, Montek Singh Ahluwalia joined the New Delhi-based public policy think tank Centre for Social and Economic Progress as a Distinguished Fellow. Subsequently, he became a part of the high-level advisory group which was jointly formed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to withstand the challenges of Climate Change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Montek Singh Ahluwalia has written several articles on various aspects of the Indian economy in academic journals which have been published in prominent Indian and international journals and books. He has also penned several articles on economic reforms in India and India’s growth process. His published work includes papers in professional journals and contributions to books.
In 1975, Montex co-authored the book Re-distribution with Growth: An Approach to Policy, a path-breaking book on income distribution. The book was published by Oxford University Press. He also authored the book Backstage: The Story Behind India’s High Growth Years, an insider’s account of policymaking from 1985 to 2014, which was published by Rupa Publications in February 2020. A mix of personal reflections and national economic history, the book chronicles the ideas of Montex Ahluwalia on issues relating to contemporary significance including education, rural development, and energy.
Chapters in Books
Montex has contributed various chapters in books written by many prominent economists. Some of them include Growth, distribution and Inclusiveness: reflections on India’s Experience and Arguments for a better world: essays in Honour of Amartya Sen.
Montek Singh has also written several journal articles like Ensuring a prosperous future (published in August 1994) and India’s economic reforms: an appraisal (published on 6 October 2014).
In 1977, while working at the World Bank, Montek Singh wrote a column titled ‘Rural poverty and agricultural performance in India.’
Awards & Honours
- Doctor of Civil Law by Oxford University (2008)
- Padma Vibhushan by the then President of India Pratibha Patil for his outstanding contribution to economic policy and public service (2011)
- Honoris Causa Doctorate of Science by IIT Roorkee (2011)
- Honoris Causa Doctorate of Science by Indian School of Mines (2013)
- When Montek Singh Ahluwalia was appointed as the Finance Secretary at the suggestion of the then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, a large section of IAS officers was disappointed that such a post was allotted to a non-IAS officer. Several protests were organised by IAS officers before his appointment.
- Montek Singh Ahluwalia is a member of the Board of the Public Health Foundation of India.