'Indian economy on shaky ground,' says Abhijit Banerjee after winning 2019 Nobel Prize on Economics

  • Indian-American Abhijit Banerjee, who on Monday won the 2019 Nobel for Economics, said the Indian economy is on shaky ground

  • The data currently available do not hold any assurance for the country's economic revival anytime soon, he stated

  • The 58-year-old, who bagged the coveted prize jointly with wife Esther Duflo and economist Michael Kremer for his "experimental approach to alleviating global poverty", said he never thought he would get a Nobel so early in his career

New York: Indian-American Abhijit Banerjee, who on Monday won the 2019 Nobel for Economics, said the Indian economy is on shaky ground. The data currently available do not hold any assurance for the country's economic revival anytime soon, he stated.

"Indian economy is on shaky ground. After witnessing the present (growth) data, just can't be sure about it (revival of economy in the near future). "In the last five-six years, at least we could witness some growth, but now that assurance is also gone," Banerjee told a news channel from the US.

 Indian economy on shaky ground, says Abhijit Banerjee after winning 2019 Nobel Prize on Economics

File image of Abhijit Banerjee. Image courtesy, MIT

The 58-year-old, who bagged the coveted prize jointly with wife Esther Duflo and economist Michael Kremer for his "experimental approach to alleviating global poverty", said he never thought he would get a Nobel so early in his career.

"I was quite taken aback after my name was announced. Never thought, I would get it so early. I thought I would be getting it after at least 10 years... We have been working on the subject for the last twenty years. We tried offering solutions towards alleviation of poverty," Banerjee said.

He also maintained that days spent in Kolkata helped him understand "various aspects" during his two-decade-long research. "I have been to several countries for my research work. My childhood experiences, teenage years in Bengal have also helped me understand several aspects during the initial years of my research," he said.

Banerjee was educated at the University of Calcutta, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Harvard University, where he received his PhD in 1988. He is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT.

Banerjee, 58, and French-American Duflo both work at the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) while Kremer is at Harvard University.

Banerjee said he has learned an “enormous amount” from talking to people on the ground. “The set of people I really owe an enormous amount to is the people who are …both the people with whom we work with, whose lives we study in many ways, but also the people who work with them.”

Crediting NGOs like Pratham and Seva Mandir for the work they do at the grassroots level, he said he has learned a huge amount from these organisations. “For example, my personal experience that these organisations that work on a very large scale with very poor people has certainly been very important for us,” he said

He added that "one should not have too much faith in one's own rationality and you should not have too much faith in the rationality of anybody else either." "We all learn together about the way the world is. I think it's an antidote to the wishful thinking of all kinds.”

Banerjee told MIT News it was “wonderful” to receive the award, adding “you don't get this lucky many times in your life.” He noted that experiment-based work in development economics was a little-explored area of research 20 years ago but has grown significantly since then.

“The kind of work we've done over the years, when we started, was marginal in economics,” he said. In that light, he added, the Nobel award is "great for the development field" within economics, reflecting the significance of work done by many of his colleagues.

In 2003, Banerjee founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), along with Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan, and he remains one of its directors. He also served on the UN Secretary-General's High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Duflo, the 46-year-old former advisor to ex-US president Barack Obama, is the second woman and the youngest ever to win the economics prize.

"We are incredibly happy and humbled," Duflo was quoted as saying by the MIT News. "We feel very fortunate to see this kind of work being recognised." “We're fortunate to see this kind of work being recognised,” Duflo told MIT News, noting that their work was “born at MIT and supported by MIT.”

She called the work in this area a “collective effort” and said that “we could not have created a movement without hundreds of researchers and staff members.” The Nobel award, she said, also represented this collective enterprise, and was “larger than our work.”

Duflo added that she and Banerjee were “absolutely delighted to share this award with Kremer,” calling his work an “inspiration” for antipoverty researchers.

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Kremer is a former MIT faculty member who served at the Institute from 1993 to 1999, and remains an affiliated professor with J-PAL; he is currently the Gates Professor of Developing Societies at Harvard University.

The three award-winners have known each other since the mid-1990s and have long viewed their research efforts as being intellectually aligned.

Nancy Rose, department head and the Charles P Kindleberger Professor of Applied Economics, said, “Esther and Banerjee have been exceptional colleagues and contributors to the MIT economics department."

“Their passion for the power of economics to do good in the world inspires us all, and their generosity and compassion in working with students and colleagues has propelled countless careers forward. We couldn't be more thrilled for this recognition of all they have done."

Rose added that “Abhijit, Esther, and Michael's work shows economic research at its finest. They have not only transformed the way economists approach the study of poverty and development economics but deployed their findings to improve the lives of hundreds of million people across the globe. Their founding of MIT's J-PAL has created a vibrant network of scholars who are bringing evidence-based antipoverty policy into every corner of the world.”

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Updated Date: Oct 15, 2019 17:55:46 IST