Gevorg MinasyanMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Masters in Data, Economics, and Development Policy (DEDP)
Huys Scholar 2022
In many emerging economies, including Armenia, policy decisions are often made without rigorous research and sound evidence. As a consequence, most policies targeting education, healthcare, environment, and other vital aspects of our lives are not appropriately designed, lacking to induce efficient allocation of public recourses and tangible changes in social well-being. I do believe, however, that things could have evolved differently under well-informed decisions by policymakers and efficient targeting of public policies.
Born and raised in an environment with limited opportunities, I have witnessed firsthand the disparity between “the haves” and “the have-nots.” I barely managed to escape the cycle of poverty owing to a “big push” from an uncle, who had covered my undergraduate tuition fees. However, many of my friends were forcibly stuck in the mindset of a scarcity despite desires and capacities similar to mine. Over the last years, both my academic and professional endeavors were an attempt at understanding the fundamental causes behind this phenomenon and bearing my share of responsibility over such vulnerable groups, which comes with my fortune of being in the “haves.” In what follows, I discuss how these circumstances have shaped my beliefs and motivated me to pursue a graduate degree in development economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
My experience with real-life economics started in 2013 when I joined the research department of the Central Bank of Armenia (CBA). Since the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the CBA had been persevering to enhance consumer protection and financial inclusion through different literacy programs. However, most of the projects were based on anecdotal evidence and country-specific experiences. Hence, our team was delegated to evaluate these projects through experimental research and conduct a cost-benefit analysis, which later translated into policy decisions and action plans.
Inspired by the application of our recommendations on the ground, I poured over the available resources (e.g., J-PAL, IPA, 3ie, DIME) to refine my theoretical knowledge and analytical skills for policy design and evaluation. In 2018, I participated in a major taxation reform in Armenia, which enabled the government to cut the personal income tax rates and shift the tax burden from distortionary direct taxes to less harmful property taxes. In 2019, I served in the research department of the International Monetary Fund as a short-term expert and contributed to a capacity-building program for the Ministry of Finance of Israel. In 2020, I had a chance to work at the World Bank Group as a consultant, helping the team analyze the potential sources of fiscal revenues and public spending inefficiencies for universal health coverage in Armenia.
These experiences were instrumental in my life and greatly reinforced my interest in development practice. Not only did they enable me to gain strong theoretical knowledge in relevant fields but equipped me with a solid skill set in empirical analysis, shaping my understanding of various policies. Nevertheless, although I have reached a certain level of competency through self-learning and personal experience, I feel that an external strain is needed to pioneer further advancements and fulfill my fascination with economics on a solid foundation. With this goal in mind, I aim to pursue a graduate degree in Data, Economics, and Development Policy at MIT and strengthen my capabilities in dealing with more challenging projects.
MIT is truly a renowned institution with access to incredible teaching and network facilities, therefore, I will try to absorb as much of it all while I am there. I have the ambition to bring evidence-based decisions to the agenda of local policymakers and help implement tailored policies for sustainable development. This will be achieved by conducting empirical research on developmental problems faced by Armenia and evaluating the effectiveness of previous policies. Moreover, I intend to design a training program on impact evaluation for the employees of the CBA and other government agencies for building up internal capacities and increasing the effectiveness of public policies.
This is a truly exciting time for me, as mounting interest in data and development economics is expected to accelerate breakthroughs in the future of policymaking. I hope to leverage the expertise and resources available at MIT to contribute toward cutting-edge research in Armenia and join the efforts in mitigating the gap between “the haves” and “the have-nots” that is still painful for many promising young people.
I am aware that Huys Foundation is granting the Huys Scholarship to me with the anticipation of my good faith pursuit and implementation of the projects and undertakings described in this letter, to which I hereby commit.