Racing to the Top at Economic Students Meet


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An unmistakable sense of achievement and enthusiasm emanated through the halls of the 7th South Asia Economics Student Meet held in Colombo, Sri Lanka last month. The theme of Economic Freedom and Poverty Reduction in South Asia brought together 192 of the top economics undergraduates from universities throughout the region to showcase their economic knowledge and talent.

Demonstrating superior knowledge, creativity, and critical thinking skills; the participants exchanged ingenious ideas in exploring creative solutions to regional economic challenges while making new friendships to pave the way for greater mutual learning as emerging leaders and future policy makers.

Students from universities in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka participated in the 3-day conference focusing on economic freedom. As Professor Bishwambher Pyakuryal from Tribhuvan University in Nepal noted, “countries with higher degrees of economic freedom also tend to have higher incomes and levels of development.”

Following this year’s topic, twenty four thematic papers were presented under the four themes related to economic freedoms inclusive of the Regulation of Businesses, Access to Sound Money, Freedom for Regional Trade, and Security of Private Property Rights, all of which are highly correlated indicators of economic freedom. Susan Razzaz, Sri Lanka Country Economist, gave the keynote speech encouraging the participants to work hard and to follow their dreams. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is by questioning that you will gain new knowledge.”

Students also demonstrated their command of economic issues through the Budding Economist competition as they answered theoretical and practical application questions given to them by a panel of professors from throughout the region.

The breadth and scope of knowledge demonstrated by the undergraduates was exceptional. The winner of the Budding Economist competition, Keshav Parthasarathy from the University of Delhi was able to effectively explain the difference between utilizing market and wholesale prices while calculating the consumer price index. Keshav was also able to demonstrate his understanding of monetary policy by stating the minimum reserve rate of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and discuss how it’s evolved over the last few years in response to the Global Financial Crisis.

The Quizonomics competition, moderated by Communications Associate, Dilinika Peiris also allowed participants to showcase their knowledge through a cooperative and lively effort. Participants were grouped into 3 teams with members from each country to create a microcosm of regional cooperation. Students were able to demonstrate their mastery of global and economic issues through increasingly difficult rounds of questioning and speech delivery. The winner, Arghya Raihan from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh was able to name six out of the eight Millennium Development Goals within 30 seconds.

Having the opportunity to sit on the judging panel during Quizonomics along with distinguished professors such as Dr. Reverend Wimalataratana, it was fascinating for me to see the depth of the understanding of economic concepts by the students. Assessing and choosing an individual winner was quite a challenge as the vast majority of their responses were well reasoned and articulate.

After the rigorous three-day event, the students had a chance to unwind and explore the natural beauty of Sri Lanka and its balmy 80 degree December weather before returning to their home countries with a greater understanding of economic challenges in the region, increased awareness of possible solutions, while making lifelong friends. As former participant and current organizer, Dulanii Liyanahetti noted, "It is not only the friends that I made but also the skills and abilities that I discovered within me which moved me forward to reach new heights."

The recent event was hosted by the Economics Department of the University of Colombo, with much of the planning and organization done at its Development Research Center, the satellite Public Information Center of the World Bank.

For more information, please visit the SAESM website and the World Bank in Sri Lanka page on Facebook as well as the World Bank's Sri Lanka Website.

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Joe Qian

Communications Officer

Join the Conversation

Nachiket Mor
January 26, 2011

Dear Dr. Qian,

I am glad you enjoyed the SAESM meet at Colombo. IFMR Trust ( has been associated with SAESM as a sponsor for some time now (you may have noticed their logo at their event -- it is also visible on the photograph above) and the one of the prizes awarded to the best student-researchers are internships with IFMR Trust.

It has been difficult for independent research institutions in South Asia to attract donor support. US based donors prefer to support institutions in the US and other donors support government owned institutions. SAESM is able to do all this because of the firm determination of its founders, Dr Deb Kusum Das, Department of Economics, Ramjas College, University of Delhi, India is the one that I know about, who work hard each year to find the support that they need.

Best regards,


Deb Kusum Das
January 28, 2011


The South Asia Economics students Meet is an annual regional conference for undergraduate students of economics aimed at creating awareness amongst young economist about the economic development of South Asia.

It is held every year in a South Asian city and attempts to bring togethar students from a wide cross section of college and institutions of South Asia. This year 2011 it will be held in India and details about the meet will be available at the website in a short span

Deb Kusum Das
coordinator, SAESM

January 29, 2011

for the economic development the regional states of the Asia make an organization which named SAARC, and the organization is working but its going to faile becuase no one is have sence of responsibilities with the organization

January 29, 2011

It was happy to hear about SAESM once again through your write-up since it's very much close to many of us. It's a unique event for Economics undergrads and the avenues that they explore through SAESM have actually taken them far.

So I hope that the meet will continue in the same spirit for many more years bringing new meaning to regional cooperation and kinship among our South Asian counterparts.

Dulanii Liyanahetti
(Former SAESM participant)
Lecturer, Open University of Sri Lanka.

Joe Qian
February 03, 2011

Thanks so much for letting us know about the very important role that that IFMR trust played in the success of the event. Dr. Deb Kusum Das is truly a visionary for the event. From my understanding, the World Bank has worked with SAESM through the years and will continue to do so in the future.

Joe Qian
February 03, 2011

Thanks for all your hard work on making SAESM possible and increasing the diversity of experiences and fostering regional cooperation for undergraduates throughout the region. I've added the link to the SAESM site.

August 23, 2011

I have attended SAESM 2009 held in Dhaka and SAESM 2010 held in Colombo, and both these years the experience has been phenomenal. From those keenly interested in the economic issues that envelope the region and even more so in regional cooperation, this platform is fast becoming a powerful mentoring ground by engaging students in research, debates, discussions and even more by bringing together practitioners, researchers and students. As a SAESM alumni, we are now committed to the setting up of an alumni association that will keep the torch burning in the years to come.

Joe Qian
August 24, 2011

Please join us at the Youth Open House at the World Bank on September 1st!