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Economic Rockstar

Aug 20, 2015

Shanta Devarajan is the Chief Economist of the World Bank’s Middle East and North Africa Region.  Since joining the World Bank in 1991, he has been a Principal Economist and Research Manager for Public Economics in the Development Research Group, and the Chief Economist of the Human Development Network, South Asia, and Africa Region.

Shanta was the director of the World Development Report 2004, ‘Making Services Work for Poor People’. Before 1991, he was on the faculty of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Shanta is the author and co-author of over 100 publications, with his research covering public economics, trade policy, natural resources and the environment, and general equilibrium modeling of developing countries.

Born in Sri Lanka, Shanta received his B.A. in Mathematics from Princeton University and his Ph.D. in Economics from University of California, Berkeley.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • why Shanta decided to take a sabbatical from lecturing and never went back.
  • about Shanta’s passion to end world poverty.
  • how experiencing living on a $1 a day with a poor family made Shanta realize that the failure lies with government.
  • how empowering people in poverty-stricken countries with information could be the catalyst to end poverty.
  • the huge government failures and market distortions threatening the economy in India.
  • why teachers and doctors in India are absent from work 25% and 40% of the time respectively and how this is affecting progress.
  • how the powerful medical union in India are making healthcare inaccessible to the poor.
  • about how crony capitalism is preventing SMEs from growing in the MENA region.
  • why Tunisia has failed to develop into an export-oriented economy due the legacy of the Ben Ali family and their connections to firms operating in heavily protected markets.
  • that the failure for governments to continue with social contracts due to high deficits triggered the Arab Spring.
  • about Colonel Gaddafi’s regime and how he managed to keep peace between tribes.


  • how water subsidies and water-intensive crops are depleting water resources in Yemen.
  • and much much more.
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