Cornell economist Kaushik Basu has been appointed the World Bank's chief economist and senior vice president for development economics. He is the bank's first Indian chief economist and its second from the developing world.
Basu recently returned to Ithaca from a two-year leave to serve India's government as its chief economic adviser in the Ministry of Finance.
"Having worked in a ministry of finance, in addition to his impressive academic achievements, Kaushik is uniquely suited to help us offer evidence-based solutions and advice to client countries and provide innovative excellence in leading our development research," World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in a statement.
While at the World Bank he will be on temporary leave from his post at Cornell, said Basu, professor of economics and the C. Marks Professor of International Studies.
"The world today is a small place, and we ought to make every effort to reach out to wherever there is need," Basu said. "The post of senior vice president and chief economist at the World Bank is tailor-made for this, and I am excited by the opportunities it offers around the globe. I use the word 'excited' self-consciously because I am aware that the task is huge and the responsibility can be overwhelming. Luckily, I have had recent experience of frontline policymaking, in India, which is trial by fire. And I discovered that I do not mind the fire as much as one should.
"I also look forward to the richness of experience that I will be able to bring to the classroom and my own research. Washington, D.C., is not too far from Ithaca, and even while I am working there I expect to maintain contact with my students," he said.
As chief economist, Basu will oversee a staff of about 300 economists, researchers, statisticians and other experts; he will also advise Kim on development policies and trends. As vice president, Basu will provide intellectual leadership and analytical services to the bank and the development community.
The World Bank is a source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. It helps governments reduce poverty by providing them with money and technical expertise for a wide range of projects, such as education, health, infrastructure, communications and government reforms.
Basu is "an extraordinary choice" to serve in the post because he embodies the "triple-play of contributions" of an academic: research, teaching and service, said Kevin Hallock, Cornell's Donald C. Opatrny '74 Chair of the Department of Economics. "He has made very important contributions to development economics during his career, including in the areas of child labor, gender, literacy and bribery. Our students and faculty will richly benefit from the experiences he brings back to Ithaca when he returns to the faculty."
A fellow of the Econometric Society, Basu has published widely in the areas of industrial organization, game theory and welfare economics.
He received his Ph.D. in 1976 from the London School of Economics, where his adviser was Nobel Prize-winning Indian economist Amartya Sen. He served as an economics professor at the Delhi School of Economics from 1985 to 1994, when he joined Cornell. In 2008 he was awarded one of India's highest civilian awards, the Padma Bhushan.