Faculty Focus logo.Economist and public leader Juan Jimenez MPA/ID 2010 has returned to Harvard Kennedy School as a lecturer in public policy. An expert in political economy and economic development, Jimenez served as the Dominican Republic’s minister of economy, development, and planning. He was also deputy minister of development policies at the Ministry of the Presidency and deputy director of the Central Bank. He will bring his real-world experience to the Growth Lab at the Center for International Development, where he was previously a research associate and project director. Jimenez also holds a bachelor’s in economics from Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra and a master’s in infrastructure investment and finance from University College London.


Q: How will your experience working in government contribute to your approach to teaching and academia? 

We say that public policies should be not only technically correct, but also politically supportable and administratively feasible. My experience tells me that it's very important to consider the political arena in order to design appropriate public policies. Furthermore, the implementation process is also important, as we tend to design policies without taking into consideration the realities of frontline workers who are the ones that are going to implement them. My experience in the policy world has shown me that policy makers should anticipate reactions from stakeholders and frontline workers.

Juan Jimenez headshot.

“We all have ideas, we all have frameworks and theories. But it's very important to listen to others—and not only other experts, but also the people that are going to be affected by the policies that you're proposing.”

Juan Jimenez

Q: What is one of the most interesting or challenging situations that you've come across in your work? 

I was part of the government team that had to manage COVID in the Dominican Republic when it arrived, and we not only had to decide the optimal combination of public health and economic policies, but also get support for those policies in the midst of a political crisis. A few weeks before the COVID emergency, we had to postpone municipal elections because the electronic voting machines didn’t work, so the political environment was very tense. Furthermore, when the pandemic started, some employees were fearful that they could lose their lives if they went to work, therefore the policy design had to incorporate that legitimate fear. Dealing with all those complexities—during one of the most important crises in recent years—is one challenging situation that I can bring to the classroom to show the importance of incorporating different points of view when you are designing a public policy.  

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Q: What are the most important takeaways that you want your students to get from your courses? 

From a broader perspective, I would say that they should be humble. We all have ideas, we all have frameworks and theories. But it is very important to listen to others—and not only other experts, but also the people that are going to be affected by the policies that you are proposing. Also, it's very important for students to know that even though the world is complex and fuzzy, they still need to have a disciplined approach when diagnosing a problem and thinking about potential solutions. In the Kennedy School they learn many frameworks that are key in understanding those problems. So it doesn't matter how difficult a problem is, breaking it down into different parts and analyzing each component with rigorous methods is very important for them to really understand what's going on. 


Q: What books have significantly influenced your work and career?  

Two books have had a major influence on the way I think about development: one is Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen. It helps me with perspective of what development is; that it’s not only about resources, about money—it’s expanding the freedom that people have to exercise their dignity. A second book would be In Search of Prosperity by Dani Rodrik. It’s a collection of essays and it helps me understand that different countries have used a variety of strategies for their growth promotion, and that allows me to understand that we should be more pragmatic as opposed to dogmatic when we think about development. 

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