Summers congratulates Ricardo Hausmann for 20 years at Harvard Kennedy School

05/26/2021

Ricardo, congratulations on 20 remarkable years at the Kennedy School.

You know, I suppose when I was President of the University and you were a Professor at Harvard it could be said that I was your boss and I did have the privilege of appointing you as the head of the Center for International Development. But perhaps less well known is that in a certain sense, you were once my boss because long before you were at the Kennedy School, you, in your capacity in the Venezuelan government, was the chairman of the Development Committee of the World Bank, and I was the chief economist of the World Bank. And so you were at that time, my boss. I learned a lot from you then, and I’ve learned a lot from you ever since.

There are many brilliant people, there are many creative people, there are many action-oriented people at Harvard, but there’s no one who has been more consistently a source of bold new ideas and at the same time centrally involved in bringing them to fruition, as you have. Whether it was the concept of economic complexity and adjoining industries as a crucial way of thinking about the process of development. Whether it was your idea of growth diagnostics hatched with others, that changes, the way one thinks about confronting a country with important challenges. Whether it was your having done something that people have talked about for a long time, but no one else has ever done with the Growth Lab.

People have talked about medical education and how splendid medical education is because people don’t just work in classrooms, they actually practice medicine carefully supervised, and they learn in the process of practicing medicine and working with other more senior physicians. And you have brought that model to public policy with what the Growth Lab has done. And it’s been a great institutional innovation both for the Kennedy School and for the economics profession.

Whether it has been the conversations we’ve had intermittently about the tragedies in your native land of Venezuela and the possibilities of what could be done if reasonable governance can ever be restored in Venezuela, whether it is your ideas about transforming public policy education. Whether it is your very bold concepts for thinking differently about the US current account deficit as dark matter. Whether it was your ideas about what was necessary to provide confidence in terms of financial crises and how conditionality could be inimical to confidence rather than supportive. I don’t think you’ve always been right. But I do think you’ve always said what you thought was right. You’ve always been interesting. You’ve never been conventional. And your contributions to thought and action have always worked towards making the world a better place.

Your legacy is completely secure after 20 years, but Ricardo, this is an anniversary event, not a retirement event, and I, for one, am looking forward to 20 more years of substantial contribution.

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