Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo. Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty. (Shorter Note)

Publication Year : 2019

Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo. Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty. New York, U.S.A.: Public Affairs. 2012 (Reprint Edition). 320 pages. US$ 12.99. Abhijit Banarjee and Esther Duflo’s book, Poor Economics, answers two basic questions: why the poor do what they do, and what if we do not pay enough attention to what the poor say and do? In what can be referred to as a shift from ‘big thinking’ to ‘thinking small’, the book advocates ‘experimental approach’ to supply evidence-based policies to fight poverty. The authors convincingly argue that our inability to empathise with the poor and understand their decisions on issues such as food, health, drinking water, and the choice of enrolling or not enrolling the children in schools, forces generations to pay the cost of their choices and our ignorance today. Ironically, we tend to blame the poor as irrational without digging deeper into their rationalities. Banarjee and Duflo condemn the reductionist approach that sees poor as cartoon characters and suggest investing time and attention to understand poor in all their complexity and richness. This understanding of poverty presented by Abhijit Banarjee and Esther Duflo at a time of, as Ed Pilkington of The Guardian puts it, “digital dystopia” is a great encouragement to those who believe in the dignity of human being. While pouring billions of dollars of foreign aid, the world has little consideration for what the poor say and do. In an era of ‘automating’ poverty, one of the ignominious realities is that questions on aid effectiveness are held as irrelevant. There occurs a range of external factors and spillover effects that are being conveniently overlooked, ignored, and dismissed in the process of flow of foreign aid. Poor economics in that context provides alternative thinking to get some 865 million people out of the poverty trap and may attract readers of economics, philanthropists, and development policymakers and practitioners alike. [Allah Nawaz Samoo]