Honorary degree for former World Bank economist

A former chief economist of the World Bank has become the latest internationally-recognised academic figure to be honoured by the University of Bath as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations.

Professor Kaushik Basu received his Doctor of Laws degree from the President and Vice-Chancellor, Dame Glynis Breakwell, at a ceremony on 9 November 2016. A former chief economic adviser to the government of India, Professor Basu served as World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President from 2013 to this September. He is now C. Marks Professor of International Studies and Professor of Economics at Cornell University in New York state.

After receiving his honorary degree on the day the United States learned that Donald Trump would be its new president, Professor Basu said that it had been a depressing election. ‘Regrettably, he said, ‘this is not the exception but is becoming a norm in politics the world over.’

On Britain’s Brexit vote, Professor Basu said that it was still possible that the country would be able to secure fresh concessions from the European Union. ‘Britain must have the self-confidence to realize that the EU is worried about Britain’s exit because that will embolden other nations in the Union,’ he said.

He added, ‘I want to remind you that when politics gets nasty and economic policy challenges get big, the university acquires a responsibility. It is the one institution meant to remind us of our deeper, more-humane responsibilities and to urge us to do creative, innovative work to find new policies and new cures for the world’s big challenges.’

Read Professor Basu’s acceptance speech here.

Watch the degree ceremony and Professor Basu’s speech.

In her oration, Professor Jane Millar said that Professor Basu had combined a distinguished academic career at the highest levels with being ‘an economist in the real world’.

The ceremony was followed by a lecture on shared prosperity and inequality While the number of people living in absolute poverty worldwide has declined over the last several decades, inequality has risen, fuelling conflict and social disquiet. Shared prosperity is the idea that the distribution of income and well-being deserves attention in itself.

Professor Basu showed how the world and individual nations had done, and analysed the connection between poverty and inequality. His lecture addressed the broader political ramifications of current developments and discussed what could be done to combat some of the more adverse trends.

Professor Basu was invited to speak by Dr Ajit Mishra, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Head of the University’s Department of Economics, and the event was staged in conjunction with the Centre for Development Studies.