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In Memory of Professor John Williamson

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In Memory of Professor John Williamson

The Department of Economics is saddened to announce the death of a former member of the Department, Professor John Williamson, who passed away on 11 April in Washington DC.

John Williamson was Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick from 1970 to 1977. As author or editor of almost 40 books on international monetary and developing-world debt issues and over 50 journal articles, he was one of the most prolific and widely-cited of Warwick economists. John was most well-known for coining the term 'the Washington Consensus' in 1989 to refer to economic policies supported by Washington DC based financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and United States Department of the Treasury to help developing countries that faced debt and inflation crises.

John sought to influence policy by working for the government and spent two years as an Economic consultant to the UK Treasury. He also worked on the staff of the International Monetary Fund; and, during his three years as Chief Economist for South Asia at the World Bank, he maintained his connection with the Department of Economics and gave numerous guest lectures at the University of Warwick.

He spent most of his career at the Institute for International Economics (now the Peterson Institute for International Economics), a highly influential think-tank in Washington, DC; and it was from there that he published his views on the Washington Consensus - where he set out and discussed ten recommendations for crisis adjustment, generally favoured by the multilateral and US government agencies in Washington.

In a Festschrift volume which provides an overview of five decades of work by John Williamson at the PIIE, Fred Bergsten, then Director of the Institute, wrote that he "probably had more influence than anyone else in the world on academic and especially policy thinking on exchange rate systems for high-income and developing nations." (Global economics in Extraordinary Times: Essays in Honor of John Williamson, F. Bergsten and R. Henning, eds., PIIE Press, 2012, p.3). In the view of Stanley Fischer, another contributor to the Festschrift, "everyone who has ever had to deal with the practical aspects of economic growth and development – especially with exchange rate issues - owes John Williamson a debt of gratitude, mostly for the content of what he has written but also for the calm, clear and non-histrionic style in which he writes."

As a personal reflection, Marcus Miller, Emeritus Professor in the Department, co-author and close friend of John Williamson, adds:

"John's enthusiasm for bird-watching was legendary - with trips to economic conferences around the world often doubling as ornithological opportunities! It was perhaps his biological-cum-behavioural approach to studying currency and capital markets that helped John detect the powerful disruptive forces that can operate there, and how they might be managed."