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Wouldn’t have received Nobel if based in India, says Abhijit Banerjee

The 58-year-old India-born American economist explained "it is not that there is dearth of talent here, but bringing together of people on a large scale changes it. It is hard to do it alone."

abhijit banerjee, nobel laureate abhijit banerjee, jaipur literary fest, jif abhijit banerjee, nobel prize economist abhijit banerjee The Nobel laureate also opined that India needs a better opposition which is the heart of any democracy (File Photo)

Economist and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee Sunday said he wouldn’t have been able to win the coveted prize if he was based in India, his country of origin. Asked if he could have won the Nobel Prize based in India, Banerjee, speaking at the Jaipur Literature Festival, said, “I don’t think so.”

“It is not that there is a dearth of talent here, but bringing together of people on a large scale changes it. It is hard to do it alone,” the 58-year-old India-born American economist explained.

Banerjee, along with fellow economists Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer, shared the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics for their “experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”. Born in Mumbai, Banerjee was educated at the University of Calcutta and the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). He received his PhD from Harvard University and is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“I benefited enormously from a place (MIT) where I had the world’s best potential PhD students. And that is important. All this work that I am taking credit for is mostly done by others,” Banerjee said.

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The Nobel laureate also asserted that India required a better Opposition, which is the heart of any democracy, and the ruling party should embrace that to keep it under check. Banerjee further said there was no co-relation between authoritarianism and economic success.

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“You can easily argue that Singapore had a successful dictator and can easily come back and talk about Zimbabwe. We can talk about this ad nauseum… At some level authority is an illusion,” he said.


“India needs a better opposition. The opposition is the heart of democracy and the ruling party should want a better opposition to keep it under check,” the Nobel laureate further said.

Speaking on ways to alleviate poverty in the country, Banerjee advocated that people living in abysmal poverty should be encouraged by giving them assets and freebies.

“There is so much prejudice about the abilities of the poor. Give the very poor some asset. Not lend, but give them an asset. Maybe a cow, some goats or trinkets to sell, then you look what happens to these people after 10 years. They will be 25 per cent richer, they will be healthier and happier. It encourages them to keep trying and they work harder than the people who didn’t get the assets,” he said.


Banerjee was one of the few faces that the Congress tapped ahead of the Lok Sabha elections this year. For the NYAY or minimum guaranteed income scheme, he had suggested a monthly income of about Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 to those below the poverty line.

He had earlier also come down heavily on the NDA government’s demonetisation decision and said it would adversely impact the informal sector which undertakes much of its transactions in cash. In a column written for The Indian Express, Banerjee and Duflo had also argued that the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the NRC introduce meddlesome officialdom into a question as fundamental as citizenship.

(Inputs from PTI)

First published on: 26-01-2020 at 19:26 IST
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