In the past few years there has been an ongoing trend of countries electing economists as prime ministers, even if it is only for a few months in an effort to get their country’s economy back on course. The tradition of having experienced law and political professionals is now seen as less desirable in many countries, particularly developing countries.
This is partially due to the fact that there has been a substantial economic upswing during the appointment of these prime ministers in their respective countries, whether they needed to avoid default and national bankruptcy or just to ramp up economic growth in order to improve the lives of their nation’s citizens.
Several of the prime ministers listed were only interim leaders and were appointed solely to stabilize their nation’s economies; however, others served long terms or are still serving to this day and continue to improve the economic welfare of their citizens. Overall, these economists-turned national leaders are doing things traditional leaders were simply never trained to do, such as overhaul a national economy.
With background knowledge in economics, prime ministers are more able to quickly resolve an issue than those who do not process an economic mindset. It seems that this trend is to continue in the future as people look to world renowned economists to lead them into the future of a global economy. Here are just ten countries that recently had economists as their prime ministers, some of whom are still in office.
10 Václav Klaus
Vaclav Klaus has accomplished much during his personal life. He graduated with an Economics degree at the University of Economics in Prague and has received his Ph.D. in Econometrics. It was not until the Velvet Revolution in 1989 that Klaus entered politics and formed the Civic Democratic Party, which consisted of supporters of a free-market economy. His party was victorious and in 1992 Klaus became the first democratic leader to be elected as Prime Minister of Czech Republic, an office which he held for six years.
After two lost general elections, Klaus was elected President of the Czech Republic in February of 2003 and held office for ten years. Even though his strong views on matters like climate change and EU are controversial, he has consistently carried out economic reforms.
9 Manmohan Singh
Manmohan Singh is a true scholar who applies his deep knowledge to his policies. In 1957, he received a First Class Honors degree in Economics at the University of Cambridge and later earned a Ph.D. in Economics at Oxford University. It was not until India’s economic crisis in 1991 that Singh was appointed to be the Finance Minister of India and also elected into the upper house of parliament.
In May of 2004, Singh became the first Sikh to be sworn in as Prime Minister of India, a position he currently still holds. Over the years, he has sped up India’s economic growth as well as pulled India away from bankruptcy. He helped mobilize half a million health care workers through the National Rural Health Mission and has improved relations with nearby countries like Afghanistan.
8 Shaukat Aziz
In 1967, Shaukat Aziz earned a BS degree in Economics from the Gordon College of Rawalpindi and later received a MBA from the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi. After his successful term as Pakistan’s Finance Minister, Aziz was nominated for Prime Minister by both Dr. Manmohan Singh and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and was elected in August of 2004.
During his term as Prime Minister, Pakistan’s economy grew substantially due to the economic support from the US for the war on terror. Although Aziz’s energy policies were controversial, he was committed to the Balance Foreign Policy, which builds relationships with other countries.
7 Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed
Even though Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed has no political background, he has received a degree in Economics from the Somali National University as well as a M.A in Economics from the University of Ottawa. Appointed by Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Ahmed became Prime Minister in December of 2013. Already, he is strengthening relations with Ethiopia through bilateral trade and investment.
As the current Prime Minister of Somalia, Ahmed continues to fight against corruption and fight for human rights issues. He recently met with farmers in order to discuss how the government could help the agriculture sector of Somalia.
6 Stephen Harper
Although Stephen Harper does not hold a law degree, he obtained a bachelor’s degree as well as a master’s degree in Economics from the University of Calgary. Harper's passion for politics came at a young age when he was a member of the Young Liberals Club, but later changed views because he did not agree with Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Program.
After being selected as first leader of the Conservative Party of Canada in 2003, Harper later was elected Prime Minister of Canada in February of 2006. He is known for lowering Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio and dealing proactively with foreign policy.
5 Mario Monti
Mario Monti is one of the most respected and well-known economists in Europe who graduated from Yale and began his impressive career by teaching economics at universities. He would go on to leave his mark on the European economic landscape, taking on big banks and even filing suits against Microsoft for acting like a monopoly.
Monti not only worked as an EU economic commissioner for almost a decade, but was also credited for saving the Italian economy from ruin in 2011 after he was elected as Prime Minister. During his term, which lasted little over a year, he introduced austerity measures and increased the retirement age, which were successful policies that were unpopular with his domestic audience. Monti continues to be a leading member of several think tanks and is one of the world’s most famous economists.
4 Lucas Demetrios Papademos
Lucan Papademos is a famous Greek economist who prevented Greece from exiting the European Union while it struggled with its huge default crisis in November of 2011. He went to MIT, where he received his Ph.D. in Economics, and would go on to become Governor of the Bank of Greece from 1994 to 2002 where he helped transition the Greek drachma to the euro dollar.
Papademos was only in the office as Prime Minister for five months in order to remedy the Greek default crisis that had Greece’s European neighbours’ increasingly nervous and demanding new austerity measures to be implemented. He even stated that his sole purpose was to facilitate the financial bailout of Greece, which he did by cutting wages, paid vacation days, changing the minimum wage and opening up sectors of the economy to competition. In the end, he succeeded in saving Greece from declaring bankruptcy, and stepped down as the Prime Minister of Greece in May of 2012 after fulfilling his mandate.
3 Junichiro Koizumi
Junichiro Koizumi was the Prime Minister of Japan from 2001 to 2006, and is the fifth longest serving Prime Minister of Japan in history. He started out studying economics at both Keio University and the University College London before returning to Japan to become a representative of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan.
As Prime Minister, Koizumi acted to cut banks’ debts that were slowing down the economy as well as lead the country through an economic recovery where stock markets rebounded and economic growth increased by 2004. Koizumi was immensely popular among the people of Japan and was nicknamed “Lion Heart” for his perceived bravery and wild hair.
2 Tony Abbott
The Prime Minister of Australia since September of 2013, Tony Abbott, is a Rhodes Scholar who studied economics at the University of Sidney. Abbott first rose to become leader of the Liberal Party of Australia in 2010 when he ran head to head against then party leader Malcom Turnbull over the topic of proposed emissions taxes. Abbot would go on to defeat Kevin Rudd, the former Prime Minister in 2013 and enact policies such as repealing the Carbon Tax, calling for more investment from China and officially investigating trade union corruption.
While Abbott supports some incentives for green energy, he regards climate change as real but overly costly to combat and has been historically against implementing taxes or emission trading system in Australia. Overall, he remains a somewhat divisive figure who puts Australia’s economic health above all else.
1 Hazem el-Beblawi
A liberal free market economist, Hazem el-Beblawi was appointed Prime Minister in July of 2013 for what would be a seven-month term as he sought to stabilize Egypt’s tumultuous economy. El-Beblawi studied economics at the University of Cairo and went on to get his PhD in Economics at the University of Paris before going on to work for the Bank of Kuwait and as an advisor to the Arab Monetary Fund.
In 2011, he was appointed Finance Minister of Egypt by Mohammed Mursi, though he resigned four months later after a group of protestors was killed by government forces. Due to his rejection of the Mursi government, he was approached to become interim Prime Minister by the new military backed government after Mursi’s overthrow in 2013.
El-Beblawi sought to reduce huge subsidies on Egyptian food as well as stabilize the depreciating currency after the upheaval following the coup against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.