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Sustain domestic demand: Krugman urges
Professor Paul Krugman, the winner of the Nobel Prize for economics in 2008 and a well-known columnist for the New York Times, will be visiting Vietnam for the first time to take part in a business conference organized by PACE Institute of Directors on May 21. He agreed to talk to the SGT Weekly exclusively via email exchange on this occasion.
The SGT Weekly: In "Obama's Nobel Headache," you told Newsweek: "What I have is a voice." What do you think is the role of a public intellectual?
Prof. Krugman: I think the main thing I can do is provide a bridge from more abstruse analysis to the intelligent public. You can't expect ordinary citizens to know about, say, the arguments for and against bank nationalization, or the analysis of the required size of fiscal stimulus. But I can do the math, then try to get it across in plain language.
Will that role be at the expense of the economist theorist both due to time constraint and the popularizing language?
- I don't think the language is a problem -- it's actually good for professional economists to translate their work into ordinary language, as a way to clarify their own thoughts and avoid fancy-sounding nonsense. The time constraint is real; but I don't do administration, I don't consult with corporations, and anyway academics in their 50s often do more interpretation than basic research.
Professor Dani Rodrik once said, "Blame the economists, not economics." Since what is good for a section of the population might not be good for the rest, how can you be certain that what you are writing is the best course for the economy?
- I do my best. Let me say that a recession hurts almost everyone, so that there aren't any real distribution issues. And when I recommend policies with strong distributional implications, I try to say that.
- I still strongly favor the export-led model -- it's the only strategy that has led to rapid development. What hasn't worked well is close integration with world capital markets; I think countries want to be very cautious about liberalizing the capital account. Even so, countries with strong export orientation are exposed to global shocks, but I don't think there's anything to be done about that.
But I would say that when we emerge from this, it’s not going to be the same world that we had on the eve of the crisis. At the beginning of the crisis, we had a world where there were a few countries that were consuming a lot more than they produce, the
People might say globalization is inevitable. But don't you think people, especially the poorer people, should have their own choice?
- I've never believed that it's inevitable; and it certainly shouldn't be imposed. But the world's poor are the big beneficiaries of globalization, at least on the trade side. Global poverty wasn't invented by the modern world, and in fact trade is one of the main mitigating factors.
The global crisis might be sending out the wrong lessons for policy-makers as they don't see the reform of the state-owned sector, the establishment of an independent state bank, the separation of fiscal and monetary policies as having urgency as before. What lessons do you think developing countries should take to heart?
- I actually don't see much of that happening. If your idea is that we should have 19th-century policies, the crisis response will dismay you; but the basic ideas of central bank independence and public-sector reform aren't really under threat.
What is the role of
And finally, what do you think the world economy will be like after the current crisis is over?
I think it will be a lower-key affair, less capital movement, less speculation, more regulation of financial markets; but otherwise not that much changed.
On the other hand,
By Nguyen Van Phu
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