Dressed in ethnic Indian wear and precipitating an almost rock-fan reaction from those in attendance, Nobel laureates Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo on Friday stressed on the need to ascertain that every system in the world ensures dignity for every individual as a core belief.

“We just can’t treat the economically backward as failures, that would be a very Victorian approach,” said Banerjee during the launch of the duo’s book “Good Economics for Hard Times”, published by Juggernaut, here on Friday.

Staying away from jargons, and talking about their work to an audience that mostly comprised youngsters from different walks of life and not just economics, the duo, which donated their Nobel Prize money to the Weiss Fund administered by Harvard for research in development economics, ensured that the session punctuated with humour stayed relaxed and interactive.

During “The Juggernaut Dialogue” moderated by mediaperson Prannoy Roy, Esther Duflo pointed out that it was wrong to assume that giving handouts to the poor made them lazy.

Banerjee said that their research had shown that the same made them enthusiastic. “We have tested this theory across countries. Also, why do we always tend to blame these individuals when there are sharks all around?

“If the poor are given assets, for example cows and goats, and basic training to start a business, over a period of time they inculcate a confidence to stand on their feet and make ends meet. This was first tried in Bangladesh and seven other countries later,” Banerjee said.

As part of his advice for the upcoming Union Budget, Banerjee said it was important that there were no more cuts in corporate taxes.

“It needs to be understood that the corporate sector is not short of cash. Just that it is not investing. What you need to do is get the demand side going. Get the money in the hands of the people, and they will spend. This government has ensured that almost everybody has a bank account; therefore the infrastructure is in place. Several measures can be taken to arrest the downward slide of the economy,” Banerjee said.

At a time when farm loan waivers have become an almost everyday news, Banerjee stressed on the need to have a well-oiled machinery that can provide relief to the distressed.

 

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