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Amartya Sen: The Lion Who Defies Winter—A Personal Tribute on his 90th Birthday

Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) paid tribute to the distinguished philosopher, economist, and Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen, by organizing a public lecture titled "Amartya Sen: The Lion Who Defies Winter—A Personal Tribute on his 90th Birthday" on November 2, 2023. The event took place at 5 pm BST in the conference room of the institute.

The public lecture was delivered by Dr. Nazrul Islam, Former Chief of Development Research at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Mr. M A Mannan, MP, Hon'ble Minister of Planning, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, graced the event as the chief guest. Professor Rehman Sobhan, Chairman of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), virtually attended as the special guest. Professor Wahiduddin Mahmud, Chairman of the Economic Research Group (ERG), and Professor S R Osmani, Professor of Development Economics at the Department of Accounting, Finance, and Economics, Ulster University, Belfast, UK, were the guests of honor.

Dr. Nazrul Islam, in his engaging public lecture, drew from his personal encounters with Dr. Sen to explore three vital dimensions of Sen's remarkable life: his intellectual achievements, his commitment to the well-being of people, and his activism. He also shared Dr. Sen's hopes for Bangladesh and his appreciation for Bangabandhu. Dr. Islam shed light on how Amartya Sen went beyond the conventional discourse of income distribution and stressed the significance of evaluating the "capability" of individuals. He aptly pointed out that it's not merely income that people require, but rather the means to carry out essential activities that are fundamental to their overall well-being. Dr. Nazrul Islam further expounded on how Sen redefined "development" as "freedom," with the ultimate goal being to empower individuals with the freedom to realize their full potential through the pursuit of various functionings.

Mr. M A Mannan, MP, Hon'ble Minister of Planning, described Professor Sen as not just an economist but also a philosopher in practice, emphasizing his role as a well-wisher of Bangladesh. Professor Wahiduddin Mahmud, Chairman of the Economic Research Group (ERG), discussed Sen's view that liberal democracy is a substitute for development and his dedication to the welfare of humanity. He underlined Sen's interpretation of democracy, freedom of speech, and human development, stressing the importance of pro-people policies and the democratic process.

Professor S R Osmani highlighted Sen's significant contribution in integrating ethics into economics and the inclusion of moral principles in the discipline. Professor Rehman Sobhan, a close friend of Amartya Sen, focused on Sen's impact on real politics and his humanity. He shared an anecdote about a public event where Amartya Sen's presence overshadowed even the great actor Amitabh Bachchan.

Dr. Binayak Sen, Director General of BIDS, moderated the public lecture and emphasized Amartya Sen's contribution in aligning 'economics' and 'ethics.' He pointed out the ample opportunities in Bangladesh to combine ethics and economics for future development.

To conclude the event, we were deeply honored to receive a heartfelt video message from Amartya Sen himself, despite his inability to join us in person. In this message, he humbly and succinctly conveyed his appreciation, stating, "I will take this opportunity of saying that those who have made this work has done a splendid job and I am extremely appreciative of that. The speakers may have been articulate, and I am most grateful for the event. My sadness relates only to the fact, that I was unable personally to be there to be present, when these discussions took place. But I cannot hide my enormous gratefulness for what we have just heard. Thank you very much." This touching gesture added a personal touch to the proceedings and left a lasting impression on all those in attendance.

This unique public lecture was a hybrid event, with participation from renowned scholars, economists, and dignitaries, both local and international, who joined us online. BIDS extends its heartfelt thanks to all participants and the media for extensive event coverage. Thank you for being a part of our celebration!

Meeting recording link here

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