Obituary: Sir Austin Robinson

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The Independent Online
YOUR OBITUARY of Sir Austin Robinson (by Professor G. C. Harcourt, 5 June) makes no mention of the very important role which Robinson played, when he was in his mid-seventies, as Senior Adviser to the United Nations Advisory Team to ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations), of which I was the Deputy Team Leader, and whose recommendations were largely accepted by the ASEAN countries, writes Oliver Knowles.

In this his practical experience as a civil servant with Cabinet Office experience, his attention to detail, and his feeling for practical solutions, was crucial to the success of the team's work between 1970 and 1972. He was one of the few economists who have appreciated the importance of an optimum size for governments, a subject on which he had edited a book.

His capacity for hard work, particularly when handling a multiplicity of statistics, was greater than that of many younger members of the 40- man UN Team. He mistrusted our drafting capabilities, and the final report of the team was entirely drafted by him in a hotel at St Cergue. When there were delays by the UN over the printing of the report, Robinson paid for the report to be printed privately in London, as he felt that a well- printed report was essential for submission to the ASEAN governments. It was not until 1974 that the UN printed the report as issue no 7 of the UN Journal of Development Planning.