OBITUARY: PROFESSOR SANJAYA LALL ; Prodigiously Productive Professor of Development Economics at Oxford

By Saith, Ashwani | The Independent (London, England), June 29, 2005 | Go to article overview
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OBITUARY: PROFESSOR SANJAYA LALL ; Prodigiously Productive Professor of Development Economics at Oxford


Saith, Ashwani, The Independent (London, England)


Sanjaya Lall, Professor of Development Economics at Oxford University, was in the front echelon of contemporary development economists, and arguably without peer in his own fields of specialisation: technological capability, skill acquisition and industrial competitiveness; foreign direct investment, multinationals and technology transfer; foreign trade regimes, industrialisation and state policy in developing economies in the era of neo-liberal globalisation.

He was born in 1940, in Patna in India. His father was a senior civil servant and his mother a barrister who had returned from Gray's Inn to become one of the earliest female practising lawyers in Bihar. After a brief unhappy entry into schooling in England, Sanjaya returned to St Xavier's High School, Patna. He graduated in Economics, ranked first, from Patna University in 1960, before retracing his grandfather's footsteps to Oxford, where he took a first class PPE degree at St John's College in 1963, then an MPhil in 1965.

He was a stalwart of that passing generation that could afford not to be bothered by a DPhil and chose instead to go straight into research, starting with three years at the World Bank. Apart from a two-year return to the bank in the mid-1980s, Oxford remained forever his home, where he served first as Junior, then as Senior, Research Officer at the Institute of Economics and Statistics for over 30 years; as a University Lecturer in Development Economics at Queen Elizabeth House; as a Fellow of Green College since 1982; and as Professor of Development Economics since 1999. It remained a puzzle why the formal recognition of his high professional reputation and achievements took so much longer to register in his academic home than in the rest of the world, where it was taken as just another one of those curious examples of the arcane ways of ancient universities.

Sanjaya Lall was prodigiously productive. A recent curriculum vitae lists 33 book titles between 1975 and 2003, of these over a dozen being single or co-authored volumes with mainstream academic publishers; there are 75 listed articles in reputable refereed professional journals; another 72 chapters in books; a further 67 reports for international agencies or governments; and yet 27 other articles. Apart from this, he served on the advisory boards of several journals, and notably was the Managing Editor of the new and rising home-grown journal Oxford Development Studies. He was also the Course Director for the MSc in Economics for Development at Oxford University.

His policy-related engagements were equally copious: he acted as adviser or consultant to a wide spectrum of governments and international development organisations, from the World Bank, Unicef and the OECD to the European Commission and the Commonwealth Secretariat; he served as the Principal Consultant to Unctad (the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) on its World Investment Report, and to Unido (the United Nations Industrial Development Organization) on its Industrial Development Report.

It is a remarkable feature that all this output of dedicated research over four decades developed cumulatively out of a small number of large themes " industrialisation, technological change, competitiveness, external economic linkages, and state policy. Lall made contributions in three major areas. The first of these came early in the form of pioneering work on transfer pricing by multinational enterprises, based especially on an empirical investigation of corporations operating in the pharmaceutical industry. It showed basically how multinationals could use intra- firm pricing and accounting mechanisms to siphon out, or invisibly repatriate, profits from their overseas enterprises. This was accompanied by extensive work on the role of foreign investment and multinationals in developing economies, done in part in collaboration with one of his early mentors, Paul Streeten.

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