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UNRISD Tribute to Ajit Singh

15 Jul 2015


UNRISD Tribute to Ajit Singh
It is with deep sadness that we learned of the death of Professor Ajit Singh on 23 June 2015.

Professor Singh was Professor Emeritus at Cambridge University and a renowned economist who made fundamental contributions in the field of modern business enterprise, the theory of firms and competition policy. He also formulated the first operational definition of de-industrialization in advanced economies. Professor Singh became critical of the Washington Consensus during the Latin American crisis of the 1980s and the East Asia crisis of 1997, as well as of the World Trade Organization’s narrow focus on promoting free trade. He advocated a stronger role for the state in economic development and for strengthening competition policy, both in developing countries and internationally, to guard against the anti-competitive behaviour of large multinationals and their growth through mergers and acquisitions.

Over the years, he was a senior economic advisor to the governments of Mexico and Tanzania, and consulted at numerous UN developmental agencies, including the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

People who knew Professor Singh admired not only his intellectual brilliance but also his indomitable courage. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1982 but did not allow it to stop him from working and travelling widely. He was appointed Tun Ismail Ali Chair at the University of Malaya in 2011, and Dr Manmohan Singh Chair at Punjab University in 2012, which meant making several trips a year from Cambridge to Malaysia and India. He set an example by the way he refused to give in to the disease and continued to produce original work until the very end.

Professor Singh’s areas of expertise intersected with a range of UNRISD research programmes and priorities over the years, such as economic restructuring and social policy, and corporate social responsibility. He contributed to two UNRISD flagship reports, Visible Hands and Combating Poverty and Inequality. He presented work at several UNRISD events, including conferences on Adjustment, Globalization and Social Development; Globalization and Citizenship; and Corporate Social Responsibility and Development: Towards a New Agenda?

UNRISD is deeply saddened by his death. We will miss his penetrating mind, his good humour and his courage. Our condolences go to his widow, Ann Zammit, whose affiliation with UNRISD goes back to the 1980s.

Photo: Tim Holt