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Prof Nurul Islam, arguably the greatest economist of Bangladesh, passes away in US (Inna...Raji'un)


Feb 4, 2014
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United States

Prof Islam had worked to make Bangabandhu’s Six-point Programme and became the deputy chairman of independent Bangladesh’s first Planning Commission


Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 9 May 2023, 08:58 AM
Updated : 9 May 2023, 08:58 AM

Professor Nurul Islam, considered by many as the greatest economist of Bangladesh, has died. He was 94.

Prof Islam, then a teacher of Dhaka University, had worked to craft Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Six Point (Chhai Dafa) Programme, highlighting the disparity between the erstwhile East Pakistan and West Pakistan foisted by the military administration at the time. After independence, Bangabandhu made him deputy chairman of Bangladesh’s first Planning Commission.

Nurul studied at Harvard University and lived in Washington for a long time, where he passed away after Monday midnight local time, said Dr Binayak Sen, the director general at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.

Dr Binayak said Dr Ahmed Ahsan, a neighbour of Prof Nurul in Washington, confirmed the news of passing for the veteran economist.

Born in a middle-income family of Chattogram in 1929, Prof Nurul started his education late due to frequent transfers of his father, who was a schoolteacher.

In his autobiography, ‘An Odyssey: The Journey of My Life’, he said he had never gone to a primary school, but was admitted to a high school directly after homeschooling by his father.

After clearing intermediate exams from Chattogram College, he did his Bachelor's and Master's in economics from Dhaka University. He did his PhD from Harvard in 1955.

After playing a key role in making the Six Point Programme, he worked in the US to rally international support for Bangladesh’s independence during the 1971 Liberation War.

After independence, he returned home and became deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, with Bangabandhu being the chairman.

“Nurul Islam is a complete economist. I think there was no reason for him to become the Amartya Sen of Bangladesh,” said Prof Rehman Sobhan, who was a member of that commission, at the launch of Prof Nurul’s autobiography in Dhaka five years ago.

“I see him as the internationally renowned chief economist of the country,” economist Wahiduddin Mahmud said at the programme.

After Bangabandhu’s assassination in 1975, Prof Nurul left Bangladesh.

He penned more than 25 books, including ‘Corruption, Its Control and Drivers of Change’, and ‘India, Pakistan, Bangladesh: A Primer on Political History’.

He won the Bangladesh Bank Award in 2009 for his contribution to theoretical and practical economics.

After leaving Bangladesh, he worked as a fellow at St. Antony’s College at Oxford University, assistant director general of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and advisor and later emeritus fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute.

He held several visiting academic appointments at Yale and Cambridge universities and both the London and the Netherlands school of economics.

He started his career at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economy (PIDE). He was the first Bengali director of the institute.

He worked as chairman of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) after it was formed following Bangladesh' independence.

He is survived by his wife, a son and daughter Roumeen Islam, a Senior Economic Advisor for the World Bank's Infrastructure Practice Group IFC.

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