Interview: Professor Suzuki

“We are looking for students with ‘warm hearts’ seeking solutions to poverty in the world, students with ‘cool heads’ doubting empty theories”

Interview with Professor Nobuhiro Suzuki, Environmental Economics, Food Supply and Demand Analysis.


Dear Professor Suzuki, you are one of the leading economists in Japan. So what is your motivation to teach at IPADS?

Many farmers in the world are still struggling with precarious living conditions and low income, especially in developing countries.  The theory of neoclassical development economics tells us that more complete deregulation can solve the problem. However, this is wrong. Deregulation actually makes things worse, if the market is imperfectly competitive, or buyers of outputs are under monopoly/oligopoly and sellers of inputs are under monopsony/oligopsony. Imperfect competition is a reality in the world, but it is neglected by neoclassical development economics. So we cannot solve the problem while using the current prescription. We should face and recognize reality, identify the real reasons behind poverty, and discuss about truly effective solutions for the problem with students and researchers from different parts of the world.

What should students bring along in terms of qualifications and interests to be able to study at IPADS and benefit from it?

We are looking for students with “warm hearts” seeking solutions to poverty in the world, students with “cool heads” doubting empty theories, and students who can start thinking from real-world conditions. With the skills and knowledge they acquire at the IPADS program, they should be able to propose a realistic model and prescription to solve problems.

You are involved in the current political debate about TPP and its consequences for Japan’s economy and agricultural sector. Would you encourage young scientists to develop their opinions on societal and political issues and engage in public debates?

Political messages are distorted by politicians who want to increase gains of their stakeholders. For example, the government says that TPP is beneficial to all, but the reality is that only few people benefit from it and many people will lose their jobs. The government often betrays the people. So scientists should analyze political debates from a scientific perspective and show the hidden meaning of policies and politics in order to realize inclusive growth.

Unfortunately, economics is sometimes not purely scientific either. The neoclassical economics is exploited by CEOs of large firms to increase their profits, by saying that deregulation will solve poverty problems by itself and imperfect competition is negligible. The reality is that deregulation makes income gaps larger under imperfect competition. So, the real economist should propose truly effective prescriptions based on the real world.

What kind of topics and education can students expect if they choose your field of specialization and attend your lectures?

We will analyze the degree of the unfairly low product prices and unfairly high input prices that farmers face, by using imperfect competition models. I will show that deregulation makes income gaps larger under imperfect competition, and adequate government policies are needed.

Is there a practice-oriented part in the teaching modules you offer?

Students will learn how to build simultaneous equation models with imperfect competition parameters.

You have worked as a visiting professor at Cornell University in the USA (1998-2011). How relevant, important and enriching has this personal international experience been for you personally?

Many joint works with Cornell professors resulted in many remarkable publications in major academic journals, such as the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and the Journal of Dairy Science.  I would say that they contributed to a considerable extent to my career success.

Dear Professor Suzuki, We thank you for this interview.
The interview was conducted by Alma van der Veen.

          ➡ Professor Suzuki’s profile