P. R. Brahmananda Memorial Lecture


P. R. Brahmananda Memorial Lecture

The Reserve Bank of India instituted a lecture series in 2004 in memory of Professor Palahalli Ramaiya Brahmananda in view of his relentless commitment to teaching, his seminal contributions to research in economics, particularly monetary economics, and his long association with the Reserve Bank of India. The lecture, ''The Great Depression and the Great Recession: What Have We Learned?'', being delivered by Prof. Michael D. Bordo, National Fellow, Hoover Institution on April 9, 2012 is fourth in the series. The third lecture, ''Central Bank Lessons from the Global Crisis'' was delivered by Prof. Stanley Fischer, Governor, Bank of Israel on February 11, 2011. The second lecture ''Governance, Institutions and Development'' was delivered on June 28, 2007 by Prof. Avinash K. Dixit, John J. F.Sherrerd ''52 University Professor of Economics at Princeton University. The first lecture in the series titled ''Drains, Hoards and Foreigners: Does the Nineteenth Century Indian Economy have any Lessons for the Twenty First Century India?'' was delivered by Lord Meghnad Desai, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, on September 20, 2004.

P. R. Brahmananda: A Profile

Born in 1926, Professor Brahmananda was the son of P. R. Ramaiya, a well-known Kannada journalist and freedom fighter of princely State of Mysore, who owned and edited Tainadu and Daily News. His mother, P. R. Jayalakshamma, was the Deputy Mayor of Bangalore. After completing his graduation from Maharaja's College, University of Mysore, he joined the University of Mumbai (then University of Bombay). His proclivity for academic pursuits prompted him to opt out of a career in the prestigious Indian Administrative Services in 1949-50 despite securing a high rank. He was also awarded the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in 1956, which, for some reasons, he could not take up. Professor Brahmananda started his career as a research assistant to Professor C. N. Vakil, and later established himself as a distinguished professor of economics in the University of Mumbai. Professor Brahmananda was the first RBI Professor of Monetary Economics in Department of Economics, University of Mumbai. During his stint at the University, Professor Brahmananda held several distinguished positions, viz., Director of Bombay School of Economics, President of the Indian Economic Association, President of the Society of Labour Economics, and President of the International Economic Association. He also served as a Visiting Professor at the Delhi School of Economics, Research Fellow at the University Grants Commission and Indian Council of Social Science Research, and Honorary Fellow at the Institute of Social and Economic Change and the Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore.

Even though Professor Brahmananda's contributions enriched almost all the areas of economics, monetary economics remained his forte. His major contribution to economic theory was the reconstruction of classical economics for developing countries. He carried out a parallel exercise to the 'Sraffa Revolution' in search of an invariant measure of value and is credited with enriching the monetary traditions of India. In the area of monetary theory, Professor Brahmananda brought into focus the effect of commodity hoarding on output and prices in developing countries. He also developed general theory of the rate of interest incorporating Bohm-Bawerk's idea of time preference , Schumpeterian concepts of innovation and productivity growth and the Sraffian principles of distribution shifts. He viewed the problems of welfare economics and development from an extended Classical and Marshallian angle, and provided conceptual refinements to many precepts of welfare economics. True to the tradition of development economics, Professor Brahmananda maintained a keen interest in the regional perspectives of development and international benchmarking. As an enthusiastic practitioner of applied econometrics, he treaded on the prudent path of empirically validating economic theories. He was also well informed on important developments in sociology, political science and history. As a researcher, he was uncompromising and often waged a lonely battle in the world of ideas. In the heydays of planning, his dissenting notes on many policy issues - a rarity in those times - bear testimony to the strength of his convictions.

While he remained aloof from administrative positions in the Government, Professor Brahmananda did not remain confined to the realm of theories alone. The 'wage-goods model' of the 1950s developed in association with Professor C. N. Vakil provided an alternative to the Mahalanobis model of development. In 1974, he also took the lead in the preparation of a memorandum to the Government of India on measures to bring down the rising rate of inflation. He left his mark on debates relating to several aspects of the Indian economy ranging from the economic structure, investment priorities, choice of techniques, market intervention, interest and exchange rate policies, bank nationalisation, public finance policy, population policy, employment programmes and the public distribution system. The crystallisation of his ideas took the shape of a body of thought popularly known as the 'Bombay School of Thought'.

Professor Brahmananda's writings spanning more than five decades make a fascinating story. He has nearly thirty books and more than six hundred articles to his credit. Some of his famous books / monographs include: 'Planning for a Shortage Economy' and 'Planning for an Expanding Economy' (both jointly with Professor C. N. Vakil), 'Studies in the Economics of Welfare Maximisation', 'Explorations in the New Classical Theory of Political Economy and a Connected Critique of Economic Theory', 'Planning for Wage Goods Economy', 'A Framework for an Optimum Monetary and Banking System', 'Growthless Inflation by Means of Stockless Money - A New Classical Treatise on Rising Prices' and 'Gold Money Rift - A Classical Treatise on International Liquidity'. In 1980, he prepared a widely discussed monograph on 'The IMF Loan and India's Economic Future'.

The Reserve Bank availed of the opportunity to engage such a prolific mind into writing the monetary history of India for the period from 1835 to 1900. This work broadly structured in the framework of Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz (i.e., 'Monetary Trends in the United States and the United Kingdom - their Relation to Income, Prices and Interest Rates: 1867-1975', Chicago University, 1983 and 'A Monetary History of the United States 1867-1960', Princeton - 1963), is one of the most pioneering works in the area of monetary economics in India. Professor Brahmananda completed the daunting task of collecting monetary data for the nineteenth century. Apart from recording history on the development of classical monetary and international trade theory, the work compels a relook at various debates that had attracted the attention of the monetary experts.

His sad demise on January 23, 2003 has left a void in the Indian economic world. A friend to his students, a visionary with a global outlook, a man engaged in the battle of ideas, were the many facets of the man who lived his life like a sage and inspired generations of students, many of whom have distinguished themselves in the areas of public policy and academia.

So far, four P. R. Brahmananda Memorial Lectures have been delivered as mentioned below.

Lecture No. Delivered by Subject Date
1. Lord Meghnad Desai Drains, Hoards And Foreigners: Does The Nineteenth Century Indian Economy Have Any Lessons For The Twenty First Century India? September 20, 2004
2 Avinash Dixit Governance Institutions and Development June 28, 2007
3. Stanley Fischer, Governor, Bank of Israel Central Bank Lessons from the Global Crisis February 11, 2011
4. Prof. Michael D. Bordo, National Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University and Rutgers University The Great Depression and the Great Recession: What Have We Learnt? April 9, 2012
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