As economics itself can’t be poor with its articulate nuances, so the efforts of MIT Economists, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo can be better understood as ‘Economics of Poors.’ This book is well intentioned as it entered the poverty debate with local/community perceptions and abstained from faling in the trap of generalisation. That enables to focus on the real causes of poverty and failure of numerous national and international programmes.
In fact, the main argument of this book “The way the poor make decisions, at some level,” is not that different from our own. They are no less rational or sophisticated than anyone else, and they are well aware that mistakes for them are costlier” is very touching and reflects the need of humane observation on poverty instead of maintaining technical status quo. Abhijit and Esther, the propunder of “randomised control trials in development economics” leaves simple solutions for the policy makers by playing careful attention to the evidence, this way, it’s possible to form an accurate view on impacts of poverty. This book raises many questions from impulsive side, how the bandwagon among the poor kills the real existential issues!
The best of book comes in the first part, where each of the five chapters gives an impressionable account to know the poverty in universal terms. Chapter-Ist deals with human development issues and come out impressively with an overview of regional variation in HDI. Chapter-II-A billion hungry Peoples, is most fruitful as it shatters the all ill imposed convictions, that trying to legitimise the very moves of market capitalism as good for poors. Authors take on puzzling nutrition debate in India is yet another reminder, why our vulnerable position is intact in global HDI Index? Further the reference of Angus Deaton/Jean Dreeze, who has shown that “the real story of nutrition in India over last quarter century is not that Indians are being fatter; it’s that they are in fact eating less and less” exposes how empty is the tall claims of Indian growth on poors.
Part-II of the book, that’s institution focussed retains the fine touch in Chapter-VI, Barefoot Hedge-Fund Managers, which covers the plank of investments in poors life. But the distraction appears stoutly in Chapter-VIII, where the authors sailed the wrong boat by trying to infuse new energy in poverty debate by relying on the private MFI’s business which is still passing through a severe phase, out of theirs impractical/unethical business model. It would have been better, if authors presented the calibrated model of micro-financing through the credibly managed government/private financial institutions. In Indian contexts particularly, diversity of financial institutions with special focus on Regional Rural Banks(RRBs) could have made lot of differences in finding the true way out of bottom level financing. The next three chapters shaped with global perspectives on innovation, entrepreneurship and most remarkably on policy issues.
Both Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo have keen interest in economic research, they have shown such pastime in their book.
Majority part of this book can be used for policy framing or by general readers to sharpen their skills. Noticeable is the language of this book which is completely flowing despite written by the two technical economists, it makes even an ordinary enthusiast reader capable to entwine with the very important aspects of economics. As the world standing on a critical juncture between blind waves of market led growth and incessantly growing inequality; significance of such work maximises manifolds!
By Atul Kumar Thakur