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|October 14, 1998||
Let us not confuse policy with academic brilliance, says Prof Bhagwati
Amberish K Diwanji in New Delhi
Professor Jagdish Bhagwati said he was extremely pleased to hear about Amartya Sen winning the Nobel. "It is richly deserved by Sen," said the Arthur Lehman professor of economics and politics, Columbia University, New York, USA, over the telephone.
Bhagwati is known to not share Sen's views on matters of economic policy. When queried, he clarified, "Sen has won the award for his academic work, and on which there should be no doubts. But on matters of policy, I do disagree with him."
In fact, Bhagwati said it was the model of import substitution and subsidies, which the government of India chose to follow in the 1950s, that has kept India poor for all these decades. "Let us not confuse policy with academic brilliance. The two are separate and different, and while I agree with one, I may not agree with the other."
Bhagwati pointed out that he disagreed with the policy measure suggested by economist Milton Friedman, but his economic work was excellent. "Bill Clinton does not have Nobel laureates to advise him, in fact he runs away from them," laughed Bhagwati, "and I too would say the same."
The Columbia University professor hoped that the Indian government would not use the Nobel win as an excuse to go slow on the reforms.
Asked if the economic crisis had a hand in Sen getting the Nobel, he discounted the idea. "The Nobel committee decides as early as March. Second, they sort of rotate the economics Nobel among the various streams of economics. So this was the time of welfare," he said, adding, "When the time of international finance, it will be Robin Mandel, for econometrics it will be Edmund Phelp, and when it is the turn of international trade, I'll get it!"
Bhagwati concluded by reiterating, "The award is for Sen's scientific analysis, and it should be seen as that. Do not confuse with policy."
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