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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 20 New Delhi May 7, 2016

A Tribute to Gerassimos Arsenis (May 1931 - April 2016)

Saturday 7 May 2016, by Muchkund Dubey


Prof Gerassimos Arsenis expired in Athens on April 19, 2016. He was an economist of international repute, an eminent international civil servant, a pioneer in the realm of ideas of international cooperation for development and a highly respected political figure for close to 20 years. In the last-mentioned capacity, he held the portfolios of the Minister of National Economy, Finance, Shipping, National Defence and National Education and Religious Affairs. He was a prominent-member of PASOK, the Greek Socialist Party, which he served for many years.

I did not have the privilege of working with Gerry Arsenis, but I felt a sense of great intellectual and personal affinity with him. Our interests converged in many areas and we shared a common view on the state of the world economy and international economic relation-ship and a common vision of where it should be heading. In my capacity as the spokesman of my country and the Group of 77 on international economic issues, I drew heavily on his pioneering work, particularly on financial and trade needs of developing countries.

I was India’s representative in the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly when Gerry, as friends used to call him, was working with Sydney Dell in the New York Office of UNCTAD, along with Dr Manmohan Singh. During a part of his tenure in UNCTAD as the Head of its Money and Finance Division, I was India’s representative to the UN organisations, including UNCTAD, in Geneva. We both had the privilege of working with Sydney Dell at two different points of time, he in UNCTAD and myself in UNDP.

Gerry was principally responsible for high-lighting, through his studies in UNCTAD, the inter-relationship between Money, Finance and Trade. This was articulated in UNCTAD’s flagship Trade and Development Report. I recall the excitement of my participation in the debate on this Report, which was principally Gerry’s handiwork, in the Trade and Development Board of UNCTAD in the early 1980s. The last serious and substantive debate on the subject took place at UNCTAD-VI in Belgrade in 1983. Gerry participated in this debate as the head of the Greek delegation and I as a spokesman of the Group of 77.

Gerry Arsenis was a real well-wisher and friend of India. I visited Athens in 1993 as the then Indian Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to seek Greece’s support for India’s candidature for the membership of the Security Council. Because of the very short notice given by me, Gerry could not meet me as he was engaged in a series of meetings that afternoon in his capacity as the Defence Minister of his country. But we had more than half an hour’s telephonic conversation in which he not only affirmed the support of the Government of Greece but also promised to do his best to obtain the support of the European Community as a whole. Greece delivered Gerry’s commitment by voting for India.

In his death, Greece has lost a politician of great courage and sagacity and an ideologue who stood firm by his conviction; the developing countries have lost a sincere protagonist and a pioneer of ideas conducive to promoting their cause world-wide; and the world has lost a visionary statesman firmly rooted in the values of justice, equality and fair play. Greece will no doubt miss his wise counsel and reassuring presence; but it has at the same time reasons to rejoice in his great achievements as an intellectual and a political leader.

A former Foreign Secretary, Prof Muchkund Dubey is currently the President, Council for Social Development, New Delhi.

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