班纳吉&迪弗洛：近日，我们的新书《好的经济学》（Good Economics for Hard Times）在中国出版，虽然这本书涵盖了世界经济，但书中有很多我们从中国学习到的经验和教训。也许我们在这本书中给中国读者的最重要的警告是，不要把中国已经经历过的极快的经济增长视为是理所当然的。回溯中国的发展，这点尤为重要。在某种程度上，过去的中国有很多需要追赶别国的地方，因此有很大的增长空间。现在中国比以前更富有了，经济增长也随之将会放缓，这在某种程度上其实也是一种成功的标志，所以中国不需要对经济放缓感到惋惜，重要的是在追求经济增长的过程中不要出现政策错误，而这正是导致日本和美国曾出现问题的原因。
By NetEase Economic Research Bureau (NERB), professional international economic think tank in China.
Interview with Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, Laureates of The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2019.
EDITOR: Shark Yang, Li Xiaoyan
NERB: First of all, congratulations on your new book “Good Economics for Hard Times” being published in China. For Chinese readers, what they want to know most is what do you think this book means to China?
Banerjee & Duflo: While the book covers the world economy, there are many lessons in the book that we have learnt from China, and also some lessons FOR China. Perhaps the most important warning we give in the book for Chinese readers, which in retrospect was especially important, is not to take the extremely fast growth rate China has experienced for granted. To some extent there was a lot of catch up China had to do, and therefore a lot of room to grow. Now that the country is richer, growth will be slower. This is to some extent a sign of success, so there is no reason to lament it: the important thing is not to make policy mistakes in the Pursuit of Growth. This is precisely what caused problems in Japan and the US.
The Chinese authorities are well aware of this: even before COVID-19 there was an effort to promote a ‘new normal’ with lower growth rates. Maybe the targets and expectations should be revised even further down in the current world, with an effort to preserve the quality of life of the poorest in China even with lower growth.
NERB: Your book mentioned "hard times", it's an interesting topic and how do you understand it? As the novel coronavirus spreads worldwide, the world markets and economy are suffering a sharp fell. There's a point that "a harder times" is drawing near, even worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s, do you agree? How do you understand the "hard times" the world is suffering now?
Banerjee & Duflo: We did not have SUCH hard times in mind when we titled on hard times! Even before COVID, much of the world was experiencing a period of rapid and often uncomfortable transformation. And the Western societies in particular were not ready to confront such a situation. How bad it will be will depend both on how the virus behaves and if we manage to find a vaccine or a treatment (if we don't we will have to learn how to live entirely different lives), and also how we manage the short term, in particular whether society manage to keep it together and the world stay integrated.
NERB: Immigration and inequality, globalization and technological disruption, slowing growth and accelerating climate change, your book mentioned some sources of great anxiety across the world, now maybe the novel coronavirus can be a new one, what do you think of the world economy will be during or after the epidemic situation? Will the virus bring the world much more poverty? There are a lot of large scale epidemics in history, how do you evaluate the impact on anti-poverty?
Banerjee & Duflo: It will depend largely on the world's ability to come together and help out the poorest country. From what we can see until now, thankfully the epidemic does not seem to be as bad in the poor countries in Africa and India. But the economic conditions are dire, and they could snowball into a total disaster if the world did not come together to help out. To be honest, with the western world stunned by the epidemics, and looking inward there is a possibility that Chinese becomes the leader of a new "Marshall plan" for Africa, helping them to finance income support for their citizens to weather the crisis.
NERB: Some scholars have read your book and mentioned a point in your book: “In rich countries, the more international trade there is, the greater loss the poor need to suffer." They criticized it’s a view of anti-globalized. Do you agree? With the fell of global economy, should we shrink trade to reduce the loss of the poor?
Banerjee & Duflo: The argument in the book is not against trade, it is in favor of more support to citizens who experience shock, including the shock of globalization. What we show is that transitions are very difficult: people find it hard to change job, to move etc. So once a job vanish because the products your company used to do is now done in China, people don't find it easy to move somewhere else to work in the job that may have been created by trade. Western societies, especially the US, have not been mindful of that difficulty, and as a result trade has been much more painful than it could have been. But conversely, shutting down trade would create other major disruptions. In fact it is a bit danger after the world pandemic.
NERB: Your book also mentioned poverty and inequality. Recently, under the influence of the plague of locusts and epidemic, many countries have banned rice exports. There is a view that the world has fallen into a food crisis. Will it affect the world's poverty alleviation process? What are your opinions?
Banerjee & Duflo: I think the problem will be more to make sure that the poor have money to spend during the pandemic and after. If they can buy food, I am fairly confident the supply chain will follow. So what we need to know is to guarantee an income.
NERB: Your book mentioned the global citizenry have lost their faith in economists since the 2008 financial crisis, why? How did that happen? And how to change the situation?
Banerjee & Duflo: Economists have not taken the time to explain their reasoning. They have tended to pronounce as if they were oracle. Many who call themselves economists also merely defend a particular ideology. We can reinstate trust in economists by being more transparent and open about our reasoning and how we get to our conclusion.
NERB: Based on your new book, what kind of economics do you think we need in this period?
Banerjee & Duflo: We need an economics that is much more humane: an economics that understand that the final objective is not GDP or growth but human welfare. An economics that understand that human beings are not behaving like robots. An economics that acknowledges when it makes guesses, and that is willing to correct its finding if the data proves them wrong.
NERB: The Federal Reserve is committed to use its full range of tools to support the U.S. economy and President Trump signed the bill of US $ 2 trillion economic stimulus plan. What do you think of these measures? In your view, has the economic crisis arrived?
Banerjee & Duflo: Those measures were necessary, and the US government will never need to pay for the money it takes anyway (since everyone is always willing to lend to the US). I hope other countries will also understand that now is not the time for fiscal discipline, but for supporting their population as much as possible to avoid falling into a huge demand crisis.