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Thursday, October 15, 1998
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Nobel for Amartya Sen

LONDON, Oct 14 (PTI) — Dr Amartya Sen, who took economics to the exaulted heights of philosophy with his stress on welfare was today chosen for this year’s coveted Nobel Prize which many felt was long over due.

With the recognition for his contribution to welfare economics, Sen, 64, Master of Trinity College at Cambridge University, becomes the sixth Indian to get the Nobel Prize and the first Asian to merit it for economics. He is also the first solo winner of the prize for economics since 1995.

Announcing the award in Stockholm, the Royal Swedish Academy of Science said Sen was chosen for the honour for his contribution to welfare economics.

"His contributions ranged from axiomatic theory of social choice over definitions of welfare and poverty indexes, to empirical studies of famine," the citation by the academy said.

Sen, who is in New York, was informed of the award on phone at 4 am (local time) and he thought "there was some emergency when the phone rang’’ in his hotel room.

Expressing delight over the honour, he told PTI that welfare economics touches the lives of people. With his characteristic humility he noted that many economists had worked on the subject and "it is a tragedy we can’t all share the award.’’

Besides personal recognition, it is also recognition for the subject which affects people "those doing well as well as those doing badly," Dr Sen said.

Asked if he thought this was a honour for India, he said, "I don’t know that. There are many Indians who have received Nobel Prize. There are many honours and this is one. What pleases me most is that the subject has received recognition."

The distinguished economist flew in to New York last night from the U.K. to deliver a lecture on the late Pakistani economist Dr Mehbood Ul Haq.

Sen has been awarded the Nobel Prize for his contribution to welfare economics, the Royal Swedish Academy of Science said.

Sen’s work has contributed to the theory of social choice, definitions of welfare and poverty and studies of famine, it said in its citation.

Sen’s work is linked by an interest in how resources are distributed in society, with a particular focus on the poorest members of society, the academy said. His work on famine, studying catastrophes in India, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Saharan countries found that shortage of food was not always the cause.

"By analysing the available information about different individuals’ welfare when collective decisions are made, he has improved the theoretical foundation for comparing different distributions of society’s welfare and defined new and more satisfactory indexes of poverty," the academy said.

"In empirical studies, Sen’s applications of his theoretical approach have enhanced our understanding of the economic mechanisms underlying famines."

The prize, officially known as the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel, is worth 7.6 million crowns (960,000 dollars) this year.

Born on November 3, 1933 at Santiniketan founded by another Indian Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, Sen has retained Indian citizenship despite his long stay abroad as a professor.

He has taught in India and various universities abroad including Harvard, Oxford and London School of Economics. He left his professorships in economics and philosophy at Harvard University this year to become Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Sen had been in the reckoning for the Nobel prize for several years and many of his admirers felt he had been over looked so far because of his outspoken criticism of the western model of economic growth which he felt had fallen short of achieving the welfare of the poor.

NEW DELHI, TNS Adds: Prime Minister Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee today said that the country was proud at Prof Amartya Sen winning the Nobel Prize for Economics this year.

"The country is proud of your achievement", Mr Vajpayee said in a message expressing his sense of joy at the event.

Meanwhile, economists across the country today hailed Professor Amartya Sen saying he had done "India proud, though such recognition was long overdue".

The Director General of the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), said he was absolutely delighted that Prof Sen had been awarded the Nobel Prize.

Prof Sen’s work, both in technical economics as well as deep concern for human development has been unusual, he said and it therefore appropriate he should have been honoured.

Director of Research and Information Systems (RIS), Dr V.R. Panchmukhi said he felt very excited. "It is a long awaited recognition for an intellectual of very high calibre and an economist of very practical insight".

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has felicitated Prof Amartya Sen on being conferred the Nobel Prize for Economics.

In a statement issued here today, the CII said that it is indeed a defining moment in history and every Indian should be proud of this highest achievement in the field of economics and more particularly his research in welfare economics.back


Conscience-keeper of economics

CALCUTTA, Oct 14 (PTI) — Professor Amartya Sen, who became the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize for Economics today, has won acclaim as "conscience keeper" of the world of economics by probing into ethical and philosophical questions relating to inequality and causes of poverty and famine.

Sixtyfour-year-old Sen, who became a Professor in Jadhavpur University at just 24, was a strong votary of social development and felt market reforms had no meaning without it.

Sen was candid about India’s economic reforms and felt that despite overall economic growth, there was evidence that economic expansion was not reaching the least fortunate in society.

Educated at Presidency College in Calcutta, Sen went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he acquired his bachelors and masters degrees and doctorate.

During his stint at Trinity, he won the prestigious Adam Smith Prize, Wrenbury Scholarship and Stevenson Prize. He later went onto to become Master of Trinity College, a prestigous post.

A versatile economist, Sen’s prolific writings ranged from choice of technique, poverty, famine and inequality, analysing causes of famine and starvation, Sen demonstrated that traditional analysis focussing on food supply is "theoritically defective, empirically inept and dangerously misleading" in terms of policy.

One of the most dramatic findings of Amartya Sen’s research relates to the devastating consequences of inequality between men and women.

Sen came up with a startling figure of hundred million ‘‘missing women’’, killed as it were by discrimination on account of less food and medical care as compared to boys and men.

Sen’s work on poverty and famines led to the construction of the "poverty line", a measure widely used by the United Nations and other development agencies to determine the level of poverty in a particular country.

Betwen his high profile international assignments, Sen returned to India in 1963 to teach at the Delhi School of Economics for about nine years. This was his last teaching stint in India.

His path-breaking publication ‘‘Choice of Techniques’’ was the first to delineate the case which many developing countries faced, whether to adopt labour intensive or capital intensive techniques for development.

In his illustrous career spanning three decades, Sen held several prestigious posts, including presidentship of the American Economic Association and the International Economic Association. He was also a member of the editorial boards of reputed journals like Economica, Economics and Philosophy.


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