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An economist in the making, interested in ideas of development economics and political economy. Subscribe to my insights at whatifeconomics.substack.com

A self-provisioning society can be an intersection of the commons, as envisioned by Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom, and cooperative economics, a branch of heterodox economic thought.

In this world of reinventing capitalism — producer’s capitalism to shareholder capitalism — and growing consumerism, society needs cooperation and cooperatives. These “self-provisioning” mechanisms have come forward time and again to avert a crisis.

Cooperatives, unlike capitalist firms, are not run by distant institutional investors or shareholders but by people who are producers and customers. These are autonomous, requiring voluntary participation, democratic, boast of cooperation within communities, and depend on the economic participation of their members.

Historically, cooperatives emerged on the production side and in the food sector, but they have grown and diversified since then. While organic food cooperatives…


A silver bullet is an action that cuts through complexity, providing an immediate solution to a long-standing problem. Is microfinance that bullet to the issue of global poverty?

The complex nature of developing economies, embedded in their urban-rural dynamics, diverse cultures, dialects, people, behaviors, and actions, makes it a test case for innovative economics and policy measures. In a poverty-stricken world, credit is a gateway to global prosperity and empowerment. However, is access to credit alone enough?

One peculiarity observed in developing economies is the skewed firm size distribution. A majority proportion of businesses are small-scale operations and, in most cases, confined to the boundaries of a rural household. Many rural women entrepreneurs start businesses catering to the local economy like tailoring clothes, preparing food items such as…


The idea of vaccine passports has been around long before COVID-19 disrupted travel and commute. While pre-COVID-19 vaccination certificates are mandatory for a few regions and against select diseases, COVID-19-related vaccine passports will affect the global population in ways yet to unfold.

Imagine a world where you will be required to verify your immunity to a virus wherever you go — work, restaurants, movies, buses, trains, flights, that is, all public places. Depending on where you live, a developed economy like the United States or the United Kingdom, or a low and middle-income country like Sub-Saharan Africa, this process could appear seamless or tedious.

Vaccine passports will be your pass to any public and private space in the post-pandemic world. These can be as simple as QR codes on your mobile phones to traditional paper records of your COVID-19 vaccination status. Such…


Modern Monetary Theory is a post-Keynesian heterodox theory postulating that an economy holding a sovereign currency can never run out of money.

Everyone — from individuals at home to economists at the Central Banks — prepares a budget — personal or national — once in a while — weekly, monthly, or annually. The exercise involves balancing the incomes and expenditures, such that the former is greater than the latter. As individuals, our income streams remain limited to wages, returns on past investments, and loans. For the Central Banks, these sources are taxation and borrowing unless they unveil the power of printing money. This distinction is one of the tenets on which the post-Keynesian thinkers have built the Modern Monetary Policy (MMT).

Now…


The skewed gender ratio across Asia, particularly India and China, prefaced the notion of missing women. Since then, the trends and reasons behind missing women have been of great interest to development economists.

For every 100 women, there are 105 men across the globe.

A possible explanation could be biological — a skewed sex ratio during conception than at birth. Back in the 19th century, when contraception and sex-selective abortion were unacceptable and unknown, there was an excess of males during the time of conception, as concluded by this 2019 study. However, a 2015 study refutes claims of a skewed gender ratio at the time of conception, leaving factors such as sex-selective abortion during the later months of pregnancy as a potential cause of male-biased sex ratios at birth.

Households in Asian developing…


As the world is on the verge of a global housing crisis, the lack of a missing middle limit the number of options households have while choosing the right house.

Global leaders and national politicians have long preached housing for all but do not provide the legislation for housing of all sorts. Affordable housing does not alone concern the developed economies, such as the United States, but also the developing and low-income countries.

From Hong Kong’s too small an apartment to New York’s burning a hole in your pocket all-in-one-room apartments, the perils of housing shortage and unaffordability are not unknown. On the other hand, in countries like India, there lies a dichotomy in housing as one can see high-rising buildings surrounded by dismal slums.

There lie two problems at…


Two paradoxes — that of value and choice — in economic and psychological decision-making are quite different yet similar. At the intersection of economics and psychology — called behavioral economics — lie these paradoxes.

The ‘paradox of value’ and the ‘paradox of choice’ came about decades apart in economic and sociological history. While the paradox of value derives from an observation made by Adam Smith in his book The Wealth of Nations in 1776, the paradox of choice comes from Barry Schwartz’s book by the same name — The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less — in 2004.

The paradox of choice means that freedom to choose can sometimes lead to frustration and anxiety among those who face the task of making a decision. Be it those high school graduates choosing the college…


The article unveils the missing middle phenomenon or the lack of medium-sized enterprises in the industrial sector of developing economies.

Industries are said to be the backbone of an economy. The growth trajectory of any economy starts with agriculture, leading to industrial development and, finally, the emergence of a service sector. Industries, thus, provide a forward and a backward linkage to services and agriculture, respectively.

The history of industrialization suggests that technological advancements have facilitated employment opportunities for the masses. This renewal of labor demand in emerging industries has engineered the process of urbanization. However, there is a gap between the concentration of industries, compared by firm sizes, in the developed and developing economies. …


When do the free markets cease to be self-correcting? The article charts the evolution of economic thought, from traditional laissez-faire to modern-day free market economies.

A long time ago, the forefathers of economics set the stage for what came to be known as the free market economy. It all started with Adam Smith’s classical work, titled An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, that laid the foundation of ideas of freedom and efficiency. This eighteenth-century classic revolutionized the way we look at economies today and inspired the economics textbooks taught at universities today.

Free market economics, driven by the infamous invisible hand, promotes production processes within an economy without any government intervention. The demand of goods by consumers and supply…


This explainer expands on the labor demand and supply in a monopsonistic labor market, exploring the effect of collective bargaining by trade unions on such a market structure.

Remember playing the board game — monopoly — with your friends or family on that long weekend afternoon. Everyone has had such an experience, at some point in their lives, most likely during the pandemic-induced lockdown. Some played to collect more and more properties, reach Broadwalk or Mayfair — the most expensive properties (in USA and UK version, respectively) on the board, and build houses and hotels along the squared path. Others discovered the art of managing assets, rents, mortgages, and loans, to eventually emerge as a monopolist.

Monopsony lies on the other extreme of the spectrum of distribution of…

Shereein Saraf

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