Australian Economy

David Evans obituary | Economics

My father, David Evans, who has died aged 81, was a pioneering international development economist and family man. He dedicated his career to improving the world, one economic policy at a time.

Born in Perth, Western Australia – the third of four sons of Flower (nee Southwood) and Bill Evans – David grew up near the banks of the Swan River, where he developed a lifelong love of boats, water and adventure, enjoying youthful success in competitive rowing and sailing.

After graduating in economics at the University of Western Australia, he saw firsthand how political imperatives could trump economic analysis, while working as a research assistant on the assessment of two large dams that had questionable benefits but strong backing.

He always retained a clear-eyed sense of the limitations of economic modelling – and the need to supplement its results with broader questions such as equity and power relations.

David earned his PhD at Harvard University in the US in 1968, where he also became part of the anti-Vietnam war movement. Studying under Wassily Leontief, he was involved in the development of “input-output analysis”, for which his supervisor won the 1973 Nobel prize in economics.

On returning to Australia, David took up a lectureship at Monash University, Melbourne, where his economic modelling on trade tariffs upset the politically powerful steel industry – and his anti-Vietnam war activism drew attention from the CIA and its Australian equivalent, ASIO.

In Melbourne, he met and in 1969 married Barbara Einhorn, my mother, and together they moved in 1973 to the UK, where David joined the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex.

There, he spent much of his early career playing a leading role in the fight against the neo-liberal “Washington Consensus”, under which the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were pushing “shock therapy” on developing countries.

His later work on the inequality and poverty impacts of trade liberalisation, based on theories of “unequal exchange”, ultimately became influential with the IMF, the World Bank and beyond – and has important implications for climate policy and the just transition.

David was a dedicated and much-loved postgraduate supervisor. Many of his colleagues and a number of students became lifelong friends. Although he officially took early retirement in the mid-90s, around the same time that he and Barbara parted, he continued working until last year.

In later life, he became a devoted grandfather, settling with his partner Jill Goldman in Rodmell, a small village in East Sussex. He sang in a choir and enjoyed regular visits to nearby Glyndebourne.

David is survived by Jill, his sons, Ben and me, and six grandchildren. David’s daughter, Jessica, predeceased him.

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