Nobel Winner Abhijit Banerjee on ‘What the Economy Needs Now’

The book, ‘What the Economy Needs Now’, is intended as an agenda from which politicians can pick up ideas.

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(This story was first published on 17 May 2019 and has been republished from The Quint’s archive in light of Indian-American economist Abhijit Banerjee winning the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences on Monday, 14 October. Banerjee was awarded the prize along with Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.’)

Fourteen economists, including Raghuram Rajan, Abhijit Banerjee, Geeta Gopinath and Karthik Muralidharan, have pooled in their ideas on on the state of the Indian economy and the way ahead, in a book.

The book, What the Economy Needs Now, is a compilation of policy suggestions, intended as an agenda from which Indian politicians can pick up ideas for their manifestos.

Columnist Mihir Sharma and Professor of International Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Abhijit Banerjee, two of the authors, discuss What the Economy Needs Now, published by Juggernaut, in this video.

The group of economists who contributed to the book, said Banerjee, were handpicked by Raghuram Rajan, Geeta Gopinath and himself. “From then onward we would each have a bunch of long conversations where would bounce ideas off each other, kind of nudging towards more or less a consensus,” he said.

He added that the economists were from across the spectrum and had differences in opinion, but he was struck by how it all pared down to coherent and connected thoughts.


When asked about healthcare in India, on which Banerjee himself has written a chapter in the book, he elaborated on the importance of primary healthcare, the NDA government’s focus on insurance and protection of income and what the government should do to improve the overall healthcare situation.

The chapter on education is authored by Karthik Muralidharan, professor of economics at The University of California, San Diego. It, according to Banerjee, broaches the fatal flaws of the Indian education system, especially at the primary levels, and how it translates to an economy, which is increasingly driven away from skilled jobs.

“So you can memorise your way through your Class 10th exam,” he remarked, “but you can’t memorise your way through life.”

On the looming job creation crisis in India, Banerjee declared that here his opinion didn’t necessarily conform with that of other experts, saying that the jobs crisis was perhaps as much as 25 years old and what we see today is a compound effect of sorts.

Talking about the issues specific to the coming five years, he betrayed a sense of optimism saying that, this time around, governments of states like West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh had recognised issues in education and healthcare, and could work to address them.

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