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Money talks

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“If you can’t persuade students that what we do in ‘macro’ [economics] is important in the real world and their daily lives, then you have problems!” jokes Curtin Business School Associate Professor Garry MacDonald, who is clearly passionate about economics.

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MacDonald explains, “Macro deals with the key issues like economic growth, unemployment and inflation – the things that are talked about every evening on the news and in newspapers.”

His enthusiastic teaching style is complemented by a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field. He previously worked in South Africa with Curtin Professor Jeff Petchey and the Financial and Fiscal Commission in South Africa on an AusAID-funded project to develop a model that examined the impact of capital funding allocations to the South African provinces. His research was published in the highly ranked Journal of Development Studies.

“The work we did in South Africa had a real influence on policy,” says MacDonald. “We spent a number of years working there and we still keep in touch with them, on an almost personal level.”

MacDonald is now working on a similar project in Australia, where he and two colleagues are looking at the way goods and services tax (GST) money is distributed to the states.

Alongside his teaching and research, MacDonald is currently supervising two doctoral students, one of whom works for the Ministry of Finance in Indonesia.

“He is here on an AusAID scholarship and he’s done really well. He went to Canberra as part of a delegation to see how we run parliament and has become really involved in the community and the university,” explains MacDonald.  “He’s looking at fiscal and monetary policy in Indonesia, looking at how government spends money and its impact on the rest of the economy.”

MacDonald’s advice to potential HDR students is to choose a supervisor whose interests reflect their own.

“A PhD is a long haul,” he says. “Find a topic you’re passionate about and find a supervisor who shares your interest. It’s a long time to work together so it’s also important to get along!”

Earlier this year, MacDonald was invited to present a series of lectures on macroeconomics at the triple-accredited Birmingham Business School in England. His lectures focused on the Taylor Rule, a monetary policy rule that stipulates the interest rate set by the reserve bank, and issues surrounding monetary policy in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

He enjoyed his time in England and found the international networking opportunities beneficial.

“Talking to other people gets you going with ideas that lead to better teaching and more research,” reflects MacDonald. “Whilst there, I talked to Professor David Dickinson about projects he was doing and some of his work on wealth effects is similar to work I’ve been doing on asymmetric effects. It broadens my experience of teaching and that can only be positive for the teaching I do here.”