Obituary: Professor Sir Austin Robinson

YOUR obituary of Sir Austin Robinson (by G. C. Harcourt, 5 June) correctly identifies his contribution to the economics of development, writes John Howell. He also did much to foster British interest in policies to improve incomes and welfare in poor countries and in 1960 he was a prime mover in the establishment of the Overseas Development Institute where he remained an active member of its governing body.

When OCI was 30 years old, and he was 92, he asked me if the gap between rich and poor countries was now wider than it was when ODI started. He knew the answer perfectly well, but he wanted to ensure that ODI did not lose sight of the bigger picture. The subsequent research, to which he contributed, showed that a number of previously poor countries were attaining middle-income status and revealed a number of newcomers among the poorest. Between these very poor countries and the richer OECD countries, the income gap had been widening remorselessly. Robinson saw these countries as the priority concern of development economics. His own perspectives remained challenging to the end.