Interview with Konstantins Benkovskis

Interview with the lecturer of International Economics and Econometrics Konstantins Benkovskis, in which we talk about research, Latvia and Konstantins's work and rest. Enjoy!

 

Education: BSc from Riga Technical University, University of Latvia

Years at SSER: part-time lecturer of Econometrics from 2008, 2nd year of full-time IE lecturing

Family status: married

Favourite book: many of them, especially 20th century literature

The most favourite economic model: the one which you can check by econometric methods

I cannot spend a day without: there is no such a thing, it depends on a day

I have never: conducted an orchestra

Study vs. Party: these are not substitutes, actually, for me they are quite connected as we have a nice department in the bank and go out after work, but I would say it is 70/30.

You do huge amount of research. Have you ever encountered results totally opposite to what you have expected?

Oh, it’s a usual thing in econometrics. At first, you have nice expectations, then you do regressions and you get something completely different. Then you start to think why the results are awkward, and maybe in a month you are able to change the model in the right direction so that the results are more reasonable. When you work with empirical data, the initial situation is always a total disaster.

Maybe, you can remember the result which surprised you most?

I was quite surprised by the increase of non-price competitiveness of Latvian exports. One of my last topics was about non-price factors, which include quality or change in tastes, and Latvia’s results were better than Estonia’s, which was opposite to my expectations. Of course, if my calculations are right :)

Econometric research you do is obviously a very complicated and time-consuming occupation. What is the source of inspiration for you: love to econometrics/ obligation/ pleasure when you see your work published?.. 

Of course it is a pleasure to see your work published, share it with people and everything. But imagine, there are some people in my bank who have been doing the analysis of the same sector for 20 years. For me it would be boring, and research is an opportunity to always learn something new without changing your position or occupation. It helps me to develop myself. It is one of the main moments for me. In other position I would not sit in a bank for 12 years.

From Morten we have often heard that Latvia is a very “special and interesting country” in terms of economic development and many other things. Can you explain the reason for that? Is it national character, climate, past experience?.. 

Maybe, for a Danish person it really seems special. But I wouldn’t say it’s too different from Lithuania or Estonia. What may have an influence is our small size – some cities are bigger than our whole country, therefore, many indicators have huge volatility. When I show to my colleagues in ECB that at one year our wage growth was +13%, and next year it went down to -5%, they look very impressed – how on earth is it possible?! There, if you have a growth rate of 1% - cool, you are very dynamic.

What do you consider to be your own comparative advantage?

I think that it is an ability to work with data, empirical thinking. I am certainly not a business type, but I am quite good for state organisations, universities.

They say that during lunch breaks, instead of having a meal, you go to the gym. Is it true?

Who says that? :)  Yes, we have a gym in the bank where our security guys train. I used to do it quite intensively some time ago, but now it is more just for fun.

Some advice to SSE Riga students?

Be critical: to me, to Krugman, to your lecturers, to yourself. Do not take things for granted.

Viktoria Pilinko

 

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