Economists Take Charge!

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In most of the governments of OECD countries, it is a long-established tradition that a majority of the political leaders are chosen from the ranks of those who are lawyers by both profession and training.

Because the economics profession is also one whose academic discipline is concerned with public policy and with management of public resources, many economists have wondered how things would be if an economist were in charge.

Outside the OECD, this phenomenon is not wholly unknown.  Presented here, are the portraits of two PhD holders of economics. Since being elected, Manmohan Singh has built a reputation as a pro-market reformer, while Rafael Correa has built one as a market skeptic. Both have profoundly reshaped their country’s economic profile.

Rafael Correa – President of Ecuador

Alma Mater: Université Catholique de Louvain, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Doctoral Thesis: “Three Essays on Contemporaneous Latin American Development”

Elected: Elected in December 2006, re-elected in 2009.

Achievements While in Office: Correa has cut Ecuador’s sovereign debt level approximately in half. To achieve this he has made use of Active Debt Management Policies (ADMP), sovereign bond repurchases, and Odious Debt theory. Legal changes under Correa have also increased the size of both domestic and state ownership stakes in the country’s oil industry, as well as the oil itself. Correa’s government has also reduced drilling in the Ecuadorian rainforests, instead, seeking international compensation for part of the forgone oil revenues.

Prior to being in Office: Correa served as Ecuador’s finance minster in 2005 before being elected president. He resigned amid controversies arising from sale of Ecuadorian sovereign debt instruments to Venezuela, a move that proved highly popular.

Manmohan Singh – Prime Minister of India

Alma Mater: Cambridge University, Oxford University

Doctoral Thesis: “India’s export performance, 1951–1960, export prospects and policy implications”

Election: The UPA, Singh’s Party was elected in 2004. Party Leader Sonia Gandhi declared Singh the UPA candidate for the Prime Ministership.

Achievements While in Office: Singh is credited as the leader responsible for India’s economic reforms, which lead to impressive economic growth rates over the past decade. The reforms featured decreased regulation, an increased tax base, and increased foreign investments.

Before Singh’s tenure in office, India was often criticized for having a sluggish, heavily regulated economy, which often lacked effective incentives. India’s GDP growth figures are revealing: In 1999-2002, annual growth rates were less than 5%, during Singh’s administration they have consistently been above 8% every year, with the exception of 2008 and 2009. Unfortunately, Singh’s administration has also overseen an increase in India’s inflation rate to 9.5% due in part to increased exposure to the US dollar.

Prior to being in Office: Singh worked for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) from 1966–1969. Thereafter, Singh taught at the University of Delhi and worked for the Ministry of Foreign Trade. From 1991 to 1996, Singh was India’s finance minster.

Photo Credit: World Economic ForumPresidencia de la República del Ecuador