Right on the money
Mention inflation, monetary policy and capital flows and most people's eyes glaze over. Not Guy Debelle's. These words are pure gold to the Reserve Bank economist whose days are spent devouring mountains of financial data.
It will come as no surprise then that 20 years ago Dr Debelle's favourite pastime was flicking through economic tomes in the Barr Smith Library while studying for his degree.
But the hard work has paid generous dividends to the University of Adelaide economics graduate, now 41, married with two children, and occupying one of the most senior financial positions in the country.
Dr Debelle's stellar career resembles a strong financial bar graph, peaking in April 2007 with his appointment as Assistant Governor of Financial Markets for the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).
Prior to that, his chart shows an upward trajectory of public policy experience, teaching, research and published work.
He credits eminent South Australian economist Professor Dick Blandy, a friend of the family, for encouraging him to pursue a career crunching numbers. At university, he was similarly influenced by Dr Ian McLean and Dr Colin Rogers from the School of Economics.
After graduating in 1987 with First Class Honours, Dr Debelle spent two and a half years working at the Australian Treasury before heading off to the United States to do his PhD.
He chose the best economics department in the world at the time - the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - to finish his higher degree.
His thesis - on the interaction between central banks and the government and the subsequent effect on economic outcomes - provided a solid grounding for the challenges ahead.
"At the time I didn't know I was going to end up working in a central bank. But the research has proved invaluable," Dr Debelle said.
"I had two fantastic advisers while doing my PhD - Stan Fischer and the late Rudi Dornbusch. They are the authors of the most widely-used macroeconomics textbook in the world and they employed me as a research assistant which was a wonderful learning experience."
Dr Debelle joined the RBA in 1994 and spent a year in the Research Department before moving to the International Monetary Fund, where he was based in Washington DC. Among other things, he worked on the Fund's assistance to Papua New Guinea.
He returned to the RBA in 1997 just prior to the meltdown of the Asian economy, an event which provoked a massive response on Wall Street, leading to its biggest point fall in history.
"Making a small contribution to helping the Australian economy through the Asian crisis of 1997/98 has probably been the most satisfying challenge of my career."
The upshot of the crisis was a stronger liaison between the central banks in Asia and the formation of a regional bond fund, in which Dr Debelle was extensively involved.
"That was launched in 2005 and has been very successful in terms of regional co-operation," he said.
His current role involves helping to set the cash rate for the RBA, managing the country's foreign exchange reserves and also the bank's international relations.
"I also brief the Reserve Bank Board every month on domestic and global financial market developments," he said.
It seems a long way from his University of Adelaide days, where he balanced his economic studies with campus sporting activities, including athletics and sailing.
"I really enjoyed my time at Adelaide University, with the campus so accessible and right next to the parklands and the city.
"The degree at Adelaide gave me a great background in terms of understanding the core concepts of economics. While it wasn't as mathematical as some other courses around the world, I developed a much better intuition for economics and in the end, that's far more useful."■
STORY CANDY GIBSON