Paul Streeten, 1917-2019

14 January, 2019

We are very sad to learn of the death of Professor Paul Streeten, who died peacefully on 6 January, aged 101, at his home in Princeton in the US.

Paul was the Warden of Queen Elizabeth House (now ODID) from 1968-78 and was responsible for transforming it into a multidisciplinary centre for the study of development.

As a young man Paul was active in underground left-wing politics in Austria, his country of birth, but fled to England when the Nazi Anschluss occurred. After a period of internment in 1940, he joined a commando unit involved in the war in Italy and was badly wounded. After the war, he studied at Balliol, Oxford, where he was a pupil of Thomas Balogh, who became a strong influence in his thinking. He became a Fellow of Balliol in 1948.

Paul was Deputy Director-General of Economic Planning in DFID, (then the Ministry of Overseas Development) when the early ideas for the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at Sussex University  were given shape. He was acting director of IDS 1967-68, before Dudley Seers became Director. After IDS he returned to Oxford to become Warden of Queen Elizabeth House.  Subsequently, he joined the World Bank as a senior economic adviser – where he worked with Mahbub ul Haq and was responsible for the Bank’s work on Basic Needs. He then became director of Boston University’s World Institute for Development Economic Research where he stayed until his retirement.

Paul was one of Britain’s early and most influential post-war development economists, producing many articles on trade, investment and development, working with Gunnar Myrdal on Asian Drama, being founding editor of the journal World Development, leading the work on the book First things first: meeting basic human needs in the developing countries, published by the World Bank, and making many contributions to the UN, including to UNDP’s Human Development Report.

Paul was a free thinker and careful analyst, challenging simplicities and questioning both orthodoxies and heterodoxies with wit and style. With Anne his wife, he was a good friend of many of us in development. A festschrift volume honouring his work – Theory and reality in development: essays in honour of Paul Streeten – was published in 1986, edited by Sanjaya Lall and Frances Stewart.

– Frances Stewart, Emeritus Professor of Development Economics, ODID, and Sir Richard Jolly, Honorary Professor, Institute of Development Studies