University News

World Bank economist discusses past, future of India

By
Contributing Writer

Discussing India’s politics and economic prospects, World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu emphasized the importance of incorporating sound economic theory into practical policy making work in a lecture Friday afternoon. The lecture, entitled “From the Slopes of Raisina Hill: India’s Economic Reforms and Prospects,” was the first of a two-part lecture series delivered at the Joukowsky Forum of the Watson Institute and the first Jindal lecture on India’s economy given at Brown.
After an introduction by President Christina Paxson, Basu, also a professor of economics at Cornell, recounted his personal experience in Delhi, India, where he formerly served as the chief economic adviser to the Indian government.
“Because my prior background was in academia, entering India as the government’s adviser was like entering a totally different world,” he said. He outlined the major topics of his lectures – recent research about Indian economy from 1947 to 2009, contemporary policy challenges facing the economy and law and politics in India.
In the lecture, Basu traced the history of the Indian economy, describing important changes that either promoted or stunted its growth throughout the late 20th century.  Basu’s talk, though sometimes technical, was tinged with witty, dry humor, and he engaged the audience throughout his presentation.
Basu concluded by taking several questions from the audience.
“Inequality – both on the interpersonal and regional levels – in India is rising sharply, and this is unacceptable,” he said in response to a question regarding his opinion on the country’s current economic situation. “I find inequality of any kind disturbing. This is my own normative position,” he added.
He also answered questions about his time as a government employee in India. “What I learned in India is the importance of knowledge and ideas,” he said. “It is even more important than having vested interest.”
Neha Singh ’15, an economics concentrator, said that it was interesting to hear the macroeconomic concepts she learned applied to real world examples in Basu’s talk.
Having attended many Brown-India talks, Singh said she found Basu’s talk impressive. “He was able to demystify why India has done so well economically this past decade,” she said.