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World Bank’s top economist tipped for Nobel

This year, economists working on growth and labour markets are among those vying for the prize, which will be announced on Monday at 11:45 am (0945 GMT).

This year, economists working on growth and labour markets are among those vying for the prize, which will be announced on Monday at 0945 GMT/AFP

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Oct 10 – The World Bank’s new chief economist is among those tipped to win the Nobel Economics Prize on Monday, as the awards season moves into a second week.

The economics prize is unique among the Nobel awards in that it was created by the Swedish central bank in 1968 the others were all set up through the 1895 will of Swedish inventor and philanthropist Alfred Nobel.

This year, economists working on growth and labour markets are among those vying for the prize, which will be announced on Monday at 11:45 am (0945 GMT).

The committee has a tendency to honour pairs or trios of economists, although last year a single laureate, US-British researcher Angus Deaton, was chosen for his groundbreaking work on poverty.

Paul Romer the US academic, activist and entrepreneur who was appointed chief economist of the World Bank in July is favourite to win, according to Sweden’s Dagens Nyheterm newspaper, for his pioneering work on endogenous growth theory.

This relatively new area of research tries to incorporate the way that people innovate and develop technologies into models of economic growth.

Romer’s employers are certainly rooting for him: last week New York University’s Stern Business School, where he teaches, accidentally published a press release naming him as the winner and inviting journalists to a news conference.

The school hastily withdrew the statement and apologised, saying it was merely preparing for a possible win and that it had been published accidentally. “We are deeply sorry that these routine preparations may appear presumptuous,” it said.

Other names circulating include 94-year-old William Baumol of the US, a labour market specialist, and Indian-born US economist Jagdish Bhagwati, a free trade researcher.

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Bhagwati has played “a large if subtle role in keeping protectionism from being respectable,” according to the 2008 Nobel economics laureate Paul Krugman.

Of the 76 economics prize laureates, Americans dominate the list overwhelmingly, with 55 winners.

If the Nobel committee were to look elsewhere this year, it could set its sights on France’s Olivier Blanchard, former chief economist at the IMF, or Swedish professor and ex-central banker Lars E.O. Svensson for his work on monetary policy.

‘Time for a woman’

Still more Americans have been named as possible winners: Douglas Diamond and Philip Dybvig for their work on financial panic models, or Robert Townsend for his work on risk and insurance in developing economies.

Michael Woodford, a monetary theorist currently teaching at Columbia University, and Robert Barro, who researches the factors that determine economic growth, are also mentioned as serious candidates.

Women remain largely absent from the list of economics laureates. Only one woman has won the prize — Elinor Ostrom, in 2009.

But French-American Esther Duflo, 43, would be an ideal laureate, according to economist Micael Dahlen, interviewed in Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.

“It’s high time for a woman to get the prize, for someone under the age of retirement to get it, and because her research is groundbreaking in the fields of poverty and economics, among other things,” he said.

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The economics prize is the fifth of the six Nobel prizes to be announced this year.

Last week, the awards for medicine, physics, and chemistry were announced, as well as the peace prize, which went to Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos for his efforts to end a half-century war with the FARC rebels.

The final prize, for literature, will be announced Thursday.

For that award, the Swedish Academy could tap a superstar novelist such as Philip Roth of the US or Haruki Murakami of Japan, or a lesser-known writer such as Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse or Syrian poet Adonis.

The Nobel prize consists of a diploma, a gold medal and cheque for eight million Swedish kronor (828,000 euros, $928,000), which the laureates will receive at a ceremony in Stockholm on December 10.

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