Easy money does not create a lazy poor: Abhijit Banerjee

Such criticism is influenced by neo-liberal thinking, the economist feels

Updated - March 09, 2023 09:37 pm IST

Published - March 09, 2023 08:36 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan presenting an ‘Aranmula kannadi’ to Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan presenting an ‘Aranmula kannadi’ to Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday.

Debunking the “myth” that cash transfer programmes render its recipients “lazy”, Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee has endorsed such welfare schemes which, he feels, could help combat poverty and inequality.

The Indian-American economist, who along with two others, won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty, was delivering a keynote address on the theme “How to fight poverty? Kerala, India and the World” at a programme attended by senior government officials here on Thursday.

Dr. Banerjee, who co-authored a paper that analysed data from randomised controlled trials of cash transfer programmes in 13 countries, opined the oft-repeated criticism that easy money enables a lazy poor is the “starting point” in the neo-liberal thinking about poverty.

“During our research, we could find no evidence that suggested the recipients of such schemes tend to waste such assistance and such transfers induce an increased spending on alcohol and such substances. There was also nothing to prove such assistance hampered work behaviour,” he said.


Urging governments to listen to “what the poor are saying”, the economist delved into claims that anti-poverty programmes are often exploited by undeserving sections and that leakages hamper such targeted schemes. Pointing out that the process of targeting recipients is unlikely to be perfect in several programmes, such lacunae should never deter governments from implementing such schemes especially during exigent situations like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Citing findings from randomised controlled trials of other policies, Dr. Banerjee felt the teaching structure that prevails in the country is stifled by an enormous colonial overhang. The education system is based on the purpose of training people to land themselves government jobs. “It is stubbornly committed to serving the elite among the students,” he opined.

Inaugurating the programme, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan appealed to the economist to collaborate with universities in the State. Emphasising the government’s focus on promoting knowledge-based industries in an effort to create a people-centric knowledge economy, he stressed on the steps being adopted to equip the youth with skilled employment.

“The State hopes to improve the standard of living to that of an advanced middle-income country over the next 25 years. Our guiding principle is inclusiveness that leaves no person behind and protects their social and economic rights,” he said.

Finance Minister K.N. Balagopal, Chief Secretary V.P. Joy and Officer on Special Duty (External Cooperation) Venu Rajamony were among those who were present.

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