Inaugural Mahbub ul Haq-Amartya Sen Lecture, UNIGE

Advancing, Sustaining Human Progress: From Concepts to Policies

By Malik, Khalid

Mahbub was that rare combination of thinker-doer. A former Minister of Finance in his home country Pakistan, he was acutely aware that theoretical debates were not enough, and that we have to think about policies that make a difference in the lives of people. Articulate, persuasive, he was a thought leader, par excellence. He knew that it was important to bring together the best people he could find to debate and promote ideas about human development. His Cambridge friend Amartya Sen became his close partner in this journey. Other luminaries like Paul Streeten, Gus Ranis, Frances Stewart joined this core group. Coincidentally Amartya won his Nobel Prize in Economic Science in 1998 for his contribution to welfare economics. In this way, two powerful South Asian voices came together- a Pakistani and an Indian, to advance the notion of human development, best captured by the first sentence of the 1990 Human Development Report, that ‘people are the wealth of nations’. A critical innovation, initially resisted by Amartya, was the creation of the Human Development Index as an alternative to GDP. Mahbub died early in 1998, at the early age of 64. But his legacy lives on. For me it has been a privilege to be part of that legacy.