Top Sri Lanka born economist Prema-Chandra Athukorala feted

ECONOMYEXT – Prema-Chandra Athukorala, a top Sri Lankan born economist based in Australia whose research work in the Asia-Pacific region has drawn global attention was feted by his colleagues.

Athukorala has authored and co-authored 10 books, edited 5 published 63 chapters in books and authored and co-authored more than 100 articles, many of his work has been highly cited.

"The number of citations in literature is a good indicator to judge quality," Saman Kelegama, executive director of Sri Lanka’s Institute of Policy Studies.

"Premachandra’s work has gone a long way in influencing global thinking on policy issues and he has stood tall – the premus interpapara – among his fellow Sri Lankan economists."

He was speaking at a felicitation event to honour Athukorale in Colombo.

Kelegama said in 2005, a paper on production fragmentation by Athukorale was published in a relatively new MIT Press Journal called Asian Economic Papers.

The paper was among those that received many citations helping the journal to Social Science Citation Index accreditation early in its life, Kelegama said.

Athukorala is Professor of Economics, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics, Crawford School of Public Policy at Australia National University.

After initially studying at La Trobe University he came back to Sri Lanka when the county opened its economy in 1979 working at Sri Jayewardenepura University, but later went back to La Trobe and then to ANU where he expanded his research.

Premachandra is a global authority on East Asia’s industry and trade and the development of global production networks.

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His colleagues from around the world had contributed to a felicitation volume ‘Managing Globalization in the Asia Century’.

Hall Hill, H.W. Arndt Professor Emeritus of Southeast Asian Economies, and Jayant Menon, a trade economist at Asian Development Bank edited the volume.

Hill said Athukorale was probably the professor who had supervised most doctoral students at any given time while at ANU, and was unassuming person who was enormously liked and respected by his colleagues world-wide.

Hill said, Athukorale remained humble despite his achievements and was not borne with a silver spoon.

He was recently asked by the government of India to help understand global production and also works with Indonesia and other countries, Hill said.

When economists were approached to provide papers, the response was overwhelming, Hill said. As a result the publication became much larger than originally envisaged he said. His colleagues had managed to keep the book a secret.

"I am not sure I deserve the honour," Athukorale said. He said he wanted to remember his father, who was instrumental in his becoming an economist.

His father had only studied up to grade four, but was an avid newspaper reader and also an admirer of N M Perera, a minister who was an economist in the 1970s.

Athukorale said he sat for and passed the government clerical exam after reaching grade 10 and was thinking of to get into a job early.

At the time his relatives and neighbours it was considered an honour to become a ‘liyana mahatthaya’ and urged him to join government service, but his father told him not to come back home if he took the job.

As a result he continued his education. He said he could not get Australian government scholarships given to Sri Lanka’s government as his file tended to be the last, but friends urged him to apply direct and was offered scholarship or teaching assistance from three universities.

La Trobe University offered the highest financial support so he took it, Premachandra said to laughter from the audience.

The university offered him a teaching position but he came back to Sri Lanka. Several years later, amid urging by his family, he wrote to the University and they hired him.

Athukorale said he was extremely surprised whet the felicitation volume was presented to him, and could only cry. (Colombo/Dec07/2016)

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