WIDER Annual Lectures--taking stock.

Author:Williamson, Roger

29 October 2014

I am looking forward to WIDER Annual Lecture 18, held 18 November in New York not only because I expect that Peter Timmer will make a distinguished contribution to the understanding of economic transformation, but also because the cumulative impact of this lecture series provides a comprehensive overview of the major economic issues of our day.

During my active association with UNU-WIDER over the past three years, I have been an enthusiastic promoter of the annual lectures by Justin Yifu Lin (AL15) and Lant Pritchett (AL16) in particular. Wherever possible, I have pressed a copy of the publication into the hands of friends and associates, or recommended them where appropriate in academic discussions.

But it had not occurred to me until now to dig deeper and review the entire series. As a practical lesson in manufacturing and globalization, I bought a cut-price pullover (predictably enough, made in China) against the early winter chill (yes, snow already threatening in parts of Finland) and locked myself in with the entire series to sit down and see what I can learn in these long dark evenings.

The series merits careful study

All the lectures are available on the WIDER website as electronic publications. A lot of them have also been videoed. The latest one by Martti Ahtisaari (AL17), Nobel Laureate and former President of Finland, on the importance of the Scandinavian model can be found here. I can virtually guarantee that anyone who works through the series will learn a lot. You will certainly be stimulated to think new thoughts and make connections not considered before.

The lecturers were already well known when they gave their lectures. Their views continue to develop, and their achievements gain further recognition. One was already a Nobel Prize laureate in 'economic sciences' at the time of their lecture (Douglass North AL1), another (Joseph Stiglitz AL2) was recognized later (2001). President Ahtisaari, one of the key people in the founding of this Institute, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008.

Kaushik Basu (AL7) has become Chief Economist of the World Bank. Nancy Birdsall (AL9) as founding president of the Center for Global Development has seen her brainchild rise in impact. The Annual Lecture is usually a wide-ranging thesis requiring detailed evidence and capable of generating diverse interpretations. The speakers represent a range of views. Imagine them all in one room. Bhagwati's (AL4) advocacy of free...

To continue reading