Friday, 20 May 2016

Interview - Sabyasachi Kar

Sabyasachi Kar
Associate Professor, Institute of Economic Growth

Kunal Sen
Professor of Development Economics & Policy, SEEDUniversity of Manchester, UK

Note: These questions are based on the research for a forthcoming book from Palgrave MacMillan:
The Political Economy of India's Growth Episodes by Sabyasachi Kar (Institute of Economic Growth, India) and Kunal Sen (IDPM, University of Manchester, UK)

Abstract of the Book
For decades following its independence, the Indian economy suffered from poor growth outcomes which famously came to be described as 'the Hindu rate'. Sometime during the late seventies or early eighties, things started to change for the better and by the second half of the 1990s and 2000s, there was a complete turnaround with India joining the small group of countries that were growth success stories. Recently, this narrative of India's emerging growth miracle came to be questioned when growth rates slowed down considerably after 2010. This book attempts to explain these distinct growth episodes in India by going beyond immediate determinants of growth like investment, export, infrastructure etc., and providing a political economy framework relating these episodes to deeper changes in the economy and polity. We argue that the transitions from one growth episode to another can be explained by the bi-directional relationship between growth outcomes and institutional arrangements, and the manner in which institutional arrangements and their transitions are determined by the political bargains struck between the elite groups in Indian society.

Q: How did this research begin and evolve in the minds of the researchers such as yourself Sabyasachi and Kunal Sen? Was Lant Pritchett’s framework/theory a thinking space you had already inhabited before this research began?
Lant's framework helps explain some of the puzzles associated with institutions and growth, particularly in developing countries. Methodologically, this framework can be tested using both cross-country evidence and country-specific case studies. Our previous work and publications were based on cross-country data and we had always planned to follow this up with country case studies, as these provide more detailed understanding of these issues. This is what led us to take up the India study.

Q: Could you tell us about the research methodology that you used for this book? How would you describe the nature of evidence and findings from this study? For the reader this is of great interest as the findings appear to offer a learning framework of practical use and experimentation (especially for policy makers) rather than evidence as the final truth
There are four distinct types of methodology that we have used in this book. The first is a statistical approach that has been used to identify the distinct growth regimes of the Indian economy in the post-independence period.  The second is a set of exploratory key-informant surveys that helped us understand the nature of informal institutions in India. The third is an analytical approach that has used existing data and literature to support our hypotheses. Finally, the fourth methodology used is a set of sector-specific and firm-specific case studies that have provided a deeper understanding of the issues.

Q:  What is the point of departure in this methodology used for this research study from previous methodologies you use? How is this different? 
The issues addressed in this book are multi-dimensional, complex and not easily amenable to quantification. We knew right from the beginning that one standard methodological approach would not throw sufficient light on them. Thus, the main departure - methodologically speaking - was the adoption of several alternative methodologies and tools to make sense of the issues.

Q:  What were the challenges you experienced (in methodology or in other areas such as capturing the attention of different audience etc.) in doing a research such as this one?
One of the most critical challenges has been to get information on activities that are either legally or morally seen to be wrong (for example rent-sharing among the elite groups and crony-capitalism) or are non-transparent by nature ("deals" between political and economic elite).

Q: What do you think would be the impact of this research? 
The cutting-edge literature on economic growth in developing countries has shifted its focus from immediate determinants like investment, exports, policy etc. to deeper factors like economic and political institutions. An analysis of the role of these deeper determinants in driving economic growth in India, has however, remained sparse. This book attempts to correct this shortcoming and will definitely encourage more contributions to this important area of study.     

Interviewed by Susan Koshy
Designer of Learning Experiences, Knowledge Translator and Curator
Innohealth Systems/Blank Canvas

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