Rohini Pande (Yale)

Theory and Practice: The Economics of Implementation and India’s Covid-19 Response

With Ravi Kanbur and Jaytati Ghosh

We are pleased to invite you to the third webinar in the “Envisioning India” series, co-sponsored by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies and the Institute for International Economic Policy. This is a platform for dialogue and debate. We invite you to engage with us in this series of important discussions.

The “Envisioning India” series is organized under the stewardship of IIEP Co-Director James Foster, Oliver T. Carr, Jr. Professor of International Affairs and Professor of Economics, and IIEP Distinguished Visiting Scholar Ajay Chhibber. The third event, “Theory and Practice: The Economics of Implementation and India’s Covid-19 Response” will feature Rohini Pande, Henry J. Heinz II Professor of Economics and Director of the Economic Growth Center at Yale University, Ravi Kanbur, T.H. Lee Professor of World Affairs, International Professor of Applied Economics and Management, and Professor of Economics at Cornell University, and Jayati Ghosh, former Chair of the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at the Jawaharal Nehru University.

The onset of Covid-19 has changed the trajectory of global poverty reduction, especially in South Asia. India is now predicted to see large increases in the number of people living in extreme poverty. And, in an environment of low economic growth, this heightened socio-economic inequality is likely to persist unless the state can redistribute adequate resources towards the poor. As a short-run response during the lockdown, India announced gender-targeted cash transfers and increased free food rations. However, with the `unlocking’ of the economy now near complete, the Indian state is largely relying on labor markets, undergirded by the employment guarantee program in rural areas, to provide the poor and vulnerable the resources they need. How well did India’s social protection system protect the vulnerable in the short-run? What did we learn about the relative success of food versus cash transfers when state capacity is low? In the medium-run, are labor markets succeeding in protecting the poor? How are the less powerful – especially women – faring in the covid-19 economy? Looking ahead, how should we factor in considerations of state capacity and accountability in evaluating policy proposals, such as Universal Basic Income and urban employment guarantees? Or, in devising policies to eventually put an end to the pandemic?