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Don't miss the Yusif Sayegh Development Lecture 2023 with Professor Dani Rodrik from Harvard University!

29 sep 2023


Raja Khalidi, Director General of MAS

In a world of dynamic economics, it is essential for societies to seek diverse perspectives and explore innovative ideas for sustainable development. In this sense, the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) is proud to present the fourteenth Yusif Sayigh Development Lecture, delivered by distinguished economist Professor Dani Rodrik, Professor of Political Economy at Harvard Kennedy School of Government on Wednesday, October 18, 2023, on “The New Economics of Industrial Policy.”
The Sayigh Development Lecture has become a distinctive event over the past thirteen years, presenting the ideas and theories of some of the world's most thought-provoking development economists, as well as prominent Palestinian and Arab economists. This year, the hosting of Professor Dani Rodrik comes at a critical juncture for Palestinian development, in the same high-level context as previous lecturers, as does the theme of the 2023 lecture, on the new concept of “industrial policy”. As we grapple with the complexities of our unique challenges, it is crucial that we keep pace with international perspectives on political economy and draw on them to explore ideas that align with our aspirations. 

Here we recall that the concept of “industrial policy” itself faced criticism, and was even considered by the mainstream economic intellectual trend during the last 30 years of economic globalization and trade liberalization, among the taboos belonging to a previous era of development management that was considered unproductive, non-competitive and ineffective. What is interesting in this regard is that Roderick’s intellectual journey during that period mirrored the great change in the views of economists on this issue, as the world enters the third decade of this century in reconsidering industrial policies (including what is commonly referred to as “protectionism”) in an unequal and imbalanced global economy. 

One of the key concepts put forward by Professor Rodrik is that policies and actions taken by individual countries are of great importance in their pursuit of economic development. Rather than focusing solely on external circumstances, Roderick emphasizes the role of nations in shaping their economic destiny. This perspective holds special importance for Palestine as we strive towards self-determination and sustainable growth. Moreover, Rodrik's critique of globalization offers valuable insights into the potential risks and benefits associated with economic integration. Through his analysis, he highlights the importance of balancing openness and national economic priorities, while ensuring that globalization works to the benefit of all citizens. This critical examination resonates with the Palestinian experience, as we struggle to overcome the complexities of establishing international economic relations while preserving our national interests and aspirations. 

Looking to the future, Professor Rodrik's analysis of the emerging world order offers us valuable considerations regarding the evolving geopolitical landscape and its potential impact on our region. As we explore paths toward economic sovereignty and enhanced regional cooperation, his ideas will undoubtedly contribute to our understanding of the broader context within which we operate. 

For example, Dani Rodrik is not the first major economist to have revised their thinking  to change their economic doctrine - so-called economic orthodoxy - towards theoretical positions that are more pluralistic and more critical of the failures of those theoretical constructs  - a new economic heterodoxy. He was preceded in this by great economists such as Joseph Stiglitz and Jeffrey Sachs, who effectively disavowed the economic thought of the institutions in which they held senior positions, respectively the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. When asked in 2022 by his Harvard university magazine (traditionally among the fortresses of orthodoxy), about his definition of the thorny concept of “neoliberalism,” Rodrik answered in a way that reflects his critical path and the path of the economic science in

which he stands, saying: 
“Perhaps economists are the ones who use the term “neoliberalism” least. . Even I myself have resisted writing about neoliberalism per se or using the term for a very long time. I think my first real article on neoliberalism was five years ago, when I wrote an article for the Boston Review called “Saving the Economy from Neoliberalism.” I may have used the term sparingly before, but I was never comfortable with it. Ultimately, I came to believe that this reflects a certain frame of mind. Whether we call it market fundamentalism, or whether we call it neoliberalism, I think it's, in general, a kind of over-belief in what markets can achieve, and an over-imaginative deficit as to what collective action is - whether that's on the part of government as our agent or on the part of organizations - civic or community – what collective action can achieve. So it's a very distorted vision of society where it's all about individual economic transactions and the sanctity of those transactions, as well as decentralized market transactions solving all our problems not just economic but also our social and political problems.”

Thus, by being open to pluralism and criticizing the mainstream by employing scientific evidence and development experiences, we celebrate at MAS the legacy of Yusif Sayegh in Palestinian political economy!
In the coming weeks MAS will publish in the Palestinian press a selection of Rodrik’s translated articles, to introduce his ideas to a wider economic and research community and public opinion.

Published in Arabic in Al-Ayyam, Palestine, 25/09/2023