Poverty biggest problem in the world, says Abhijit Banerjee's mother

NirmaNirmala Banerjee, mother of Indian-American economist Abhijit Binayak Banerjee, interacts with mediala Banerjee, mother of Indian-American economist Abhijit Binayak Banerjee, interacts with media while holding a photograph of her son. Photo: PTI
Poverty being the biggest problem in the world, it wasn’t unnatural for her son to focus his attention towards it and come up with solution to eliminate it; so feels Nirmala Banerjee, the mother of Indian origin economist and Nobel laureate, Abhijit Banerjee.

“He has been abroad for most of the time and I don’t know at what point of time he decided that he is going to focus on poverty. He likes to work with ground level data; and poverty being the biggest problem in the world, it isn’t unnatural for Abhijit to work it out in this field of economics”, she said.

Although Abhijit likes to focus on data and has a passion for mathematics, which Nirmala puts it, is logic explained in theories, the Nobel laureate has a liking to associate with people.

And it is this liking of Abhjit which could have steered him to traverse his way into economics and address pertinent problems related to poverty.

If mathematics is about numerals, alphabets and shapes, economics is about the society and people, Nirmala puts it.

Elated at her son’s achievement for getting the 2019 Nobel prize in the field of economics alongwith his wife Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer, for pioneering new ways to alleviate global poverty, Nirmala said there were no prior signs that someday Abhijit will make it really big.

“He was a good student but not that he was a topper. He has many interests and likes swimming, travelling, cooking and classical music”, she said.

In fact, after getting admission in the prestigious Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Abhijit decided to quit after some days and instead join Presidency University (then Presidency College under the Calcutta University) where his father, Dipak Banerjee, taught Economics. 

Abhijit had to cover a good distance to reach ISI from his abode at Ballygunje Circular Road which took time and he wasn’t able to focus on classical music which he, at that point of time, was pursuing. Eventually, he decided to let go his passion for pure mathematics and facts and instead delve into the world of economics and complex models of finance at the Presidency College which allowed him time to pursue his then newly-found interest.

According to the World Bank, most recent estimates suggest that 10 percent of the world’s population lived on less than US$1.90 a day, compared to 11 percent in 2013. That’s down from nearly 36 percent in 1990. Nearly 1.1 billion fewer people are living in extreme poverty than in 1990. In 2015, 736 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day, down from 1.85 billion in 1990.

Furthermore, two regions, East Asia and Pacific (47 million extreme poor) and Europe and Central Asia (7 million) have reduced extreme poverty to below 3 percent; but more than half of the extreme poor live in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

In fact, the World Bank suggested that the number of poor in the region increased by 9 million, with 413 million people living on less than US$1.90 a day in 2015, more than all the other regions combined. 

If the trend continues, by 2030, nearly 9 out of 10 extreme poor will be in Sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of the global poor live in rural areas, are poorly educated, employed in the agricultural sector, and under 18 years of age. 

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