Free market critic's 'human' approach wins Nobel Prize

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 January, 1999, 12:00am

Amartya Sen, the Indian philosopher- economist who has become a national hero by winning a coveted Nobel Prize, would not have cheered the global meltdown sparked by Asia's financial crash. Yet many believe it was a key argument in favour of his long-overdue recognition.

Professor Sen, the 65-year-old master of Trinity College, Cambridge, had long been seen as a Nobel contender before recently becoming the sixth Indian to be honoured - and the first Asian to scoop the economics prize. However, many admirers felt he had been overlooked because of his criticism of the Western model of economic growth, which he felt had fallen short of bringing welfare to the poor.

His work led to the construction of the 'poverty line', a measure widely used by the United Nations to determine levels of penury.

However, it was the publication of Choice of Techniques that was most relevant in the post-meltdown world. In it, Professor Sen argued that obsession with GNP and economic growth overlooked the fact that many people were poor. 'We have to pay attention to the downside of what's happening and not just the average, majority position,' he wrote.