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Pradeep Agrawal (1953–2017)

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Pradeep Agrawal, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Chair Professor of Economics at the Institute of Economic Growth (IEG), passed away on 28 May 2017. His sudden and untimely death has come as a rude shock to the academic community at large and his colleagues at the IEG in particular. He was normal and healthy till the second week of May and was busy with the final touches to his forthcoming book Policies for Sustaining High Growth in India. With his sudden demise, we have lost an experienced scholar.

After finishing his graduation and masters in Physics from Delhi University, Agrawal moved to Boston University to continue his studies in physics. However, he moved to economics and completed his postgraduation and doctorate in Economics from the Stanford University in 1987. He was a recipient of many scholarships, such as the National Science Talent Fellowship, the J Watumull Fellowship, and the Ford Foundation Grant, among others. He continued his academic career in the United States till 1990 as a faculty at the University of Nebraska, Illinois State University, and Texas Tech University. In 1990, he joined the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research as a senior faculty. In 2000, Agrawal joined the IEG as a professor and the head of the RBI unit and continued till his last breath.

Being one of the senior-most professors at the IEG, he has held positions as the director in-charge from time to time and also officiating director. He was also the director and associate dean of research at the Kazakhstan Institute of Economics, Management and Strategic Research from 2003 to 2004. He has held visiting and guest positions at many prestigious institutions across continents, from North America, to Europe, to East Asia. He also worked for the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Swiss National Science Foundation, and several ministries of the Government of India on important economic and policy issues.

In a career spanning more than 30 years, Agrawal made significant contributions to academics, both theoretical and applied, in the areas of economic growth and development, macroeconomics, economic reforms, international economics, and agricultural economics. His work varied across different themes, mostly focusing on contemporary relevant economic issues that mattered at that particular point of time. For example, the debate on labour issues was intense in the 1990s and he contributed a couple of interesting pieces on labour policies and also compared the labour policy of India with those of East Asian countries. Two of his theoretical papers published in the Journal of Economics and the Journals of Economic Behaviour and Organisation on contractual choice with different efficiency outcomes and risk behaviour were helpful in understanding types of contracts, framing efficiency, and other tenancy related issues. In the post-reforms period, when the debate about reforms was going on, two of his edited volumes along with his colleagues Subir Gokarn, Veena Mishra, Kirit Parikh and Kunal Sen comparing East Asian economies and India were useful readings for policy and are relevant for scholars even today.

In the last 15 years, he focused his research to answer some of the contemporary policy issues relating to the Indian economy by doing applied economics work, such as interest rate–savings relationship, optimal rate of interest for India, energy security, financial sector reforms, determinants of exports, etc. Some of his works on determinants of savings and the savings–growth nexus are good contributions to the literature. In fact, he was the member of the committee to project savings rates for the Twelfth Five Year Plan and also a member of the subcommittee on household, public and foreign savings.

During the last five years, Agrawal focused much of his research on “how to sustain India’s high growth rate” and India’s economic reforms. Out of his concern about India’s slowing growth post the global financial crisis, he brought together reputed scholars to edit a volume, Reviving Growth in India, where he made a major contribution. Apart from serious research papers, he used to participate and comment on important economic issues in national and international print and electronic media.

At the IEG, he was always forthright when it came to improving things at the institutional level. He was concerned about the merit, efficiency and sustainability of the IEG and sometimes his opinions and decisions may not have been liked by everybody. As a person, he was very respectable and courteous to everyone and always had a smile on his face. A very simple soul, he had his convictions on issues, whether academic or administrative. His untimely death is a loss to the academic community. All of us at the IEG pray for his soul to rest in peace.

Pravakar Sahoo

New Delhi

Updated On : 9th Jun, 2017

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