A leading architect of economic policy in Latin America, Professor Ricardo Hausmann, was named director of the Center for International Development today as the University pledged to ensure the cash-strapped center’s future.
With its coffers dwindling, the center has suffered from a parade of leadership over the past four years, and University President Lawrence H. Summers once considered scrapping the program altogether. But the Kennedy School of Government, which administers the center, said in a press release today that Summers’ office would provide seed money to keep the center afloat while it seeks a permanent endowment.
Hausmann, a former Venezuelan government official and chief economist of the Inter-American Development Bank, will assume the director’s post vacated last month by Professor Mark R. Rosenzweig, who criticized Summers and the University for neglecting the center.
The appointment of Hausmann, professor of the practice of economic development at the Kennedy School, and the commitment to additional funding appeared to at least temporarily rescue the center from a period of uncertainty that had alarmed many professors and students. The center coordinates and funds research on international development among its nearly 90 faculty associates and doled out roughly $200,000 to students and student groups last year.
But with no permanent endowment from which to draw, the center was on pace to go belly-up within the next two years, according to Aimee Pease Fox ’96, the center’s executive director. A Harvard official close to the center said Summers’ office would provide roughly $500,000 in seed money, enough to hold over the center for an additional half-year while gifts are raised for an endowment.
“CID is an extraordinary resource for the University as we deepen our commitment to promoting development around the world,” Summers said in a statement today. The president was far less supportive in the spring a year and a half ago, when he considered dissolving the center, which was established in 1998 by economist Jeffrey D. Sachs ’76, who famously sparred with Summers over economic policy and later left for a plum post at Columbia University.
Some faculty and others involved with the center—including Rosenzweig, the center’s former director—said political differences with Summers had stymied the center’s progress.
“Some think that President Summers wants to (perhaps sub-consciously) organize the study of development around himself, and that is why little or no resources are provided” to the center, Rosenzweig wrote in an e-mail last month. He left to join a better-funded program on economic growth at Yale.
Hausmann, Rosenzweig’s replacement, has been closely involved with the center since arriving at the Kennedy School in 2000. In his most recent project, Hausmann led faculty from across the University in developing recommendations for growth strategies in El Salvador, Uruguay, and Kazakhstan.
As a former minister of planning in Venezuela and a board member of the Central Bank of Venezuela, Hausmann’s research has largely focused on developing nations in Latin American, though his current projects include South Africa and China, among other countries.
“The enormous disparities in opportunities across countries is the fundamental challenge facing the world today,” Hausmann said in a statement today. “Harvard has among the best professors on development and the brightest students. The challenge for CID is to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Doing this will require that we bring the problems of the world to Harvard and bring Harvard’s ideas to the world.”
Since leaving Venezuela, Hausmann has appeared to cut his ties to the Venezuelan government.
El Nacional, a Venezuelan daily newspaper, reported in December 1998 that then-newly elected president Hugo Chavez had asked the economist to serve in his administration. But Hausmann has emerged as a vehement critic of Chavez.
In September 2004, Hausmann and MIT economist Roberto Rigobon published a study concluding that the previous month’s Venezuelan referendum—in which Chavez survived a presidential recall—was almost certainly fraudulent. The study cast doubt on a previous election audit conducted by the Carter Center.
The Venezuelan ambassador to the U.K., Alfredo Todo Hardy, described Hausmann as “a leading figure in the anti-Chavez opposition movement” in a September 2004 letter to the Financial Times.
The dean of the Kennedy School, David T. Ellwood ’75, praised Hausmann in a statement today.
“Professor Hausmann brings a wealth of experience in international development and research,” Ellwood said. “His tremendous vision and expertise will help build on the critical work of CID, ensuring the Kennedy School and Harvard University continue to make a significant impact in the developing world.”
—Check thecrimson.com for updates throughout the day.
--Daniel J. Hemel contributed to the reporting of this story.
—Staff writer Zachary M. Seward can be reached at email@example.com.