"It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of economist T.N. Srinivasan—T.N. as we all knew him—on 11 November in Chennai. The moving obituary by Niranjan Rajadhyaksha in this newspaper (“An economist for all seasons”, 12 November) conveyed his intellectual accomplishments and his impact both on the discipline of economics and on economic policy in India, so I need not repeat those here in any detail.
I will, however, reiterate that T.N., along with Jagdish Bhagwati and Padma Desai, deserves the lion’s share of credit for developing the intellectual consensus around economic liberalization well before the 1991 economic reforms. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that they laid the groundwork for 1991 and made it possible. While it may be unfashionable to say so today, I firmly believe that ideas and the individuals who articulate them do matter in shaping public policy outcomes and, in this, T.N. played a hugely important part. He is one of a very select group of economists who could take satisfaction in knowing that they played a consequential, intellectually grounded role in shaping an important event in world history—in this case, India rejoining the global economy in 1991.
My first and vivid recollection of T.N. was at an Asia Society event in New York, sometime shortly after the 1991 economic liberalization. Then Union finance minister, Manmohan Singh, was giving a talk, and my Columbia classmate, Pravin Krishna, and I were in the audience, as was our thesis supervisor, Bhagwati, Srinivasan, and other luminaries. In the Q&A following the talk, T.N. got up and asked Singh a tough question, no mere soft ball, as you might have expected from one of the intellectual architects of the liberalization that the finance minister was presiding over."
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