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Nobel Economics Prize winds up week of awards

STOCKHOLM, Oct 10 – The winner of the 2011 Nobel Economics Prize is to be announced on Monday, with the global economic crisis unlikely to colour the choice this year and no clear favourites dominating the race.

The Nobel Economics Prize announcement, due to be unveiled at 1:00 pm (1100 GMT), wraps up a week of announcements already made in the fields of medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and peace.

The five-member committee that awards the Economics Prize insists its choice is never based on recent events.

“The prize is very non-political, non-trendy and just focused on research contributions,” the committee’s new chairman Per Krusell told AFP, stressing that “we do a very thorough evaluation that can last over years, so it tends to be a long lag from the time the research is done until it is awarded.”

Olof Somell, subject manager for the Economics Prize at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, also said that while the committee wants to keep up with the times, “they want to be current within academia, not within politics.”

The list of economics laureates has in recent years been dominated by American men — since 2000 there have been only two exceptions.

In 2010, British-Cypriot economist Christopher Pissarides was honoured, and in 2009 it was won by Elinor Ostrom of the United States, the only woman to ever have received the nod.

Last year, the Nobel committee honoured labour market specialists Pissarides and Peter Diamond and Dale Mortensen of the United States.

Sweden’s paper of reference Dagens Nyheter on Sunday cited several possible names of winners this year, most of whom have been rumoured to be in the running for several years.

Among them were Robert Shiller of the United States, a behavioural finance theorist; Eugene Fama of Chicago University, also a financial economist; American growth experts Paul Romer and Robert Barro; and Austria’s Ernst Fehr, a behavioural economics specialist.

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According to financial daily Dagens Industri (DI), Fama, the author of a theory on efficient markets, would be too controversial during the current economic crisis, while it saw Barro as having a good shot at the prize.

It also predicted other possible winners as US econometrics expert Jerry Hausman and Indian-American micro-economist Avinash Dixit.

Yet another potential candidate was Bengt Holmstroem, a Finn who specialises in business, assymetric information and economic incentives.

Holmstroem was also on a list of favourites presented by Swedish economist Hubert Fromlet, who had both the 2009 and 2010 laureates on his lists those years.

Consumption theorists Robert Hall, Lars Peter Hansen and Christopher Sims have also been mentioned as possible winners, as well as political economist Alberto Alesina.

The economics prize is the only one of the six Nobels not originally included in the 1895 will of the prizes’ creator, Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel.

It was created by the Swedish central bank, the Riksbank, in 1968 to commemorate its tricentary and was first handed out in 1969.

The 10-million-Swedish-kronor ($1.48-million, 1.08-million-euro) prize sum is funded by the Riksbank, unlike the other prizes which are financed by the Nobel Foundation.

The two most-watched prizes, those for literature and peace, were announced last week.

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Swedish poet Tomas Transtroemer won the Literature Prize on Thursday, and on Friday the Peace Prize was awarded to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her compatriot peace activist Leymah Gbowee, as well as Yemeni blogger and activist Tawakkul Karman, in a nod to women’s empowerment.

All of the Nobel laureates will receive their prizes at gala ceremonies in Oslo and Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel.


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