Abhijit Banerjee wants welfare scheme for urban poor

Nobel laureate in Economics Abhijit Banerjee.

Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, the second economist from Kolkata to get a Nobel prize, believes too much emphasis on economic growth has shifted the government’s focus away from poverty eradication in India.

In one of his recent interviews, he had said that while Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) had significantly helped reduce rural poverty, the government must now think on welfare measures for urban poor.

Banerjee along with former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan had helped design the UPA’s minimum income guarantee programme ahead of 2019 parliamentary elections.

Also read — Indian economy on shaky ground: Abhijit Banerjee

A developmental economist, who bitterly criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2016 demonetisation and said that people in policy circles abroad looked at the move with ‘bewilderment’, has suggested the government work with a focussed approach on problems to get desired results.

An alumni of Calcutta University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Harvard University, Banerjee, is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is a US citizen. But, his mother, also an economist, recalls that in the beginning, he was hesitant to change his citizenship.

Banerjee shared the 2019 Nobel Prize with his French-American wife Esther Duflo and another economist Michael Kremer, “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.

Duflo, a MacArthur “genius” award winner, is only the second woman to win the economics Nobel and, by far, the youngest person to ever win the coveted prize. Last year, Banerjee joined 108 economists, who criticised the Modi government for blocking the release of unfavourable jobs data. A Mumbai-born economist and author of at least half a dozen books, was also one among 13 economists brought together by Rajan to prepare a vision for the economic agenda India should follow over the next five years.

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But his radical approach on tax matters may not please many an Indian salaried class. He is a strong votary of high direct taxes on Indian citizens and a cut in fertiliser and power subsidies. According to him, a high fertiliser subsidy is impacting underground water resources.

Banerjee has done pioneering work in the field of education through the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) that he founded along with his wife Duflo in 2003.

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