Neoclassical welfare economist and former chairman of Nedbank Dr Johannes de Villiers Graaff is one of seven highly esteemed figures to be awarded an honorary degree at UCT's June or December graduation ceremonies this year.
Dr Johannes de Villiers Graaff is being honoured posthumously for his contribution to economics – internationally and locally – which stretches over half a century. He was, during a career of engaged scholarship, able to show the links between the abstract theory of classical welfare and the practical challenges of the real world. Graaff's contributions to scholarship and to the practical affairs of South Africa have been remarkable.
The neoclassical South African welfare economist graduated with a PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1950, and attained greater eminence in academic economics than any other South African. His 1957 book on taxation, inequality and poverty, Theoretical Welfare Economics, is described in its preface by Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson as "a classic in its own time".
While Graaff pursued a career in business (he was chairman of Nedbank), he continued to write on economic theory and was highly esteemed in the academy. Much of his work has addressed practical issues of income distribution and tax reform, and he was a member of the Margo Commission (1984), Katz Commission (1994-1997) and the Tax Advisory Committee. He also served on the Economic Advisory Council and the Competition Board.
Photo of Dr Johannes de Villiers Graaff courtesy of Tessa Graaff, accessed via Wikimedia Commons.
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