HERE is a paradox. India churns out lots of brainboxes, including clever economists who thrive at home and abroad. Almost anywhere in the world you can drop into a bookshop, an international development institution, a university or a prospering company and likely as not be confronted by bright Indians offering sharp analyses of how best to fight poverty, create wealth and promote innovation. Yet the performance of the Indian economy itself, over the decades, fell well behind (most of) the rest of Asia.
Despite even the rapid expansion of the past 20 years, India still endures high rates of poverty that Asia, by and large, has long left behind. Surprisingly few Indian politicians, officials, or press folk show much interest in getting to grips with economic questions. Even now, with growth sliding to a worrying 5% or so, public debate on economic matters is limited to a narrow field.
Lots of possible explanations exist.
- Discussing economic ideas is quite different from applying them.
- India’s stifling bureaucracy, or its demanding politics, or perhaps its troubled universities, have driven bright economists abroad.
- And perhaps the country’s brightest economists are simply rubbish at communicating sharp ideas to the policymakers, activists, media types, business leaders and members of the public who could make use of them.
Too often economists are preoccupied with the intellectual skill of setting out and solving problems, scribbling equations and debating the finer points of theory. But actually doing something useful then requires describing and explaining it in a way that others can understand. Basing their work in empirical data might also help politicians—for example—see directly how economic insights can be useful when governing.
So the launch of a new Indian economics blog, called Ideas for India, looks welcome. Unveiled last week in Delhi by Abhijit Banerjee, a famous economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (who called himself a “cheerleader” for the project), along with Jairam Ramesh, an Indian cabinet minister, the blog gives economists (and other academics) in India and beyond a chance to write for non-expert readers.
Its first articles give a sense of what is on offer: an analysis of corruption within India’s rural job-creation scheme; an economic explanation for why caste identity persists; an essay on the allocation of land within India. For the general reader on India this could become a treasure trove: each day a clutch of experts tell you, in around 1,000 words, the essence of their current research, without footnotes or squiggly equations but with suggestions for further reading at the end.
Similar sites exist in other parts of the world, most notably Vox in Europe (where you’ll notice more than a few Indian economists as contributors). Credit for the new Indian one goes, in part, to the International Growth Centre, based at the London School of Economics in partnership with Oxford University. The contributors, by and large, are Indians, or people of Indian origin based in America and elsewhere. Their challenge is to engage their countrymen. If they succeed, the rewards could be magnificent.
23rd 2012, by A.R. | DELHI
Source : Economics : Salute to the India of ideas