Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee has said that he would not back fiscal tightening in the current economic environment.
Prof. Banerjee added that the real constraint to the state of education in the country in the current climate of economic slowdown was not lack of money, but the lack of attention paid to the sector.
The Union Budget 2019-20 pegged the fiscal deficit target at 3.3% of GDP. “I think the budget deficit numbers are a little bit imaginary. I don’t think it’s a big deal to breach it more. Certainly, I won’t be supporting fiscal tightening right now,” he said on Saturday while interacting with journalists ahead of a talk he delivered at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Prof. Banerjee had been associated with Pratham, an NGO in education at whose silver jubilee he gave the speech, and had used randomised control trials on its projects. Speaking about the impact of the current economic slowdown on education, Prof. Banerjee said that the real constraint was the lack of attention, and not money. “People are starting to get very worried about the state of the macro-economy [which] is not very good news,” he said. He added that the Centre had little role to play in funding education as it was a State subject.
More than budgets, what was required was the reform of institutions such as the Ministry of Human Resources and Development and the University Grants Commission (UGC) and funding reforms on a par with global standards.
“We need institutional reforms where I can decide my own syllabus with no interference by anybody. I think we should start getting people who are active participants in the education more involved in deciding what’s the right syllabus rather than syllabi decided some board or the other,” he added.
Prof. Banerjee also said that the emphasis had shifted too far towards technical education at the time he was growing up and in order to have a vibrant democracy, the country needs to have a class of people who would have broad-based education.