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Prof. Abhijit Banerjee delivers Exim Bank’s 34th Commencement Day Annual Lecture

Jaipur, January 10, 2019: Professor Abhijit Banerjee, currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), delivered the Export-Import Bank of India’s (Exim Bank’s) 34th Commencement Day Annual Lecture in Mumbai on January 9, 2019. Professor Banerjee is also the co-Founder and Director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT and has been an honorary consultant at the Planning Commission of India. He spoke on the topic, “Redesigning Social Policy”.

Exim Bank’s Commencement Day Annual Lecture series, initiated in 1986 to mark the Bank’s Commencement Day, represents the Bank’s ongoing endeavours in encouraging discussions on latest trends in international relations, global trade, investment flows and related economic developments, and facilitating sharing of opinions by experts.  Over the years, Exim Bank’s Annual Lecture series has earned high recognition in Mumbai’s public life.

In his lecture, Prof. Banerjee explained that India’s social policy framework was designed at the time when it was one of the poorest countries in the world, and in the present day context, India requires a reset in these policies. He discussed critical issues in India’s social policy that need to be prioritized, such as education, healthcare, jobs, social protection and urbanization, and proposed solutions to these issues.

Professor Banerjee highlighted that although more children are enrolled in schools in India at present, than what used to be in the past, most of them get stuck well behind their grade level, and tend to stay there. He also elucidated that our country is heading into a Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) crisis, partly as a result of increased longevity, coupled with childhood malnutrition, with increasing resistance to antibiotics. He highlighted that while our country is increasingly focusing on tertiary care, what our country needs urgently is primary care, which includes early detection and more credible advice from healthcare providers. He suggested that recognizing the presence of such healthcare providers and regulating them by frequent tests of competence and certifications could be some possible solutions for this issue.

Professor Banerjee emphasized that our country is not creating the job that it needs, and that there is a widespread perception among industrialists of a shortage of the kind of labour they want. He also opined that it is unlikely that the private sector will create the jobs that Indian youth want any time soon, with or without reasonable amount of reforms, and highlighted the problems within India’s manufacturing sector. He suggested that creating Real Special Economic Zones (which are not limited to exports) with access to transport infrastructure, land and environmental clearances could be one possible solution for creating jobs in the country.

Professor Banerjee also highlighted that our country is urbanizing swiftly, with a lot of small towns turning into cities and many villages turning into towns. He emphasized on the need for a sound infrastructure in this regard.

Mr. David Rasquinha, Managing Director, Exim Bank of India, stated in his welcome address that the Bank’s Commencement Day Lecture series has been contributing to the debate and discussions on contemporary trade and development issues impacting global economy. He emphasized that there are tremendous possibilities for reforms that will take our country towards faster and more equitable growth and highlighted the importance of redesigning India’s social policy, in order to address emerging issues in education, healthcare, skill shortage and jobs, and social protection, among others. Mr. Debasish Mallick, Deputy Managing Director, Exim Bank of India in his concluding remarks opined, that Professor Banerjee’s though-provoking ideas provide possible policy solutions which are indeed relevant, enlightening, and would remain important for India.

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