North Block does not need an economist
Speculation has it that Congress President Sonia Gandhi will likely charm Trinamool firebrand Mamata Banerjee into supporting the UPA’s candidate for the next president. And as of now, our dear Pranabda remains a frontrunner for Raisina Hills. If everything goes according to the script we may soon have a new finance minister. Already, there are names doing rounds — of politicians as well as economists.
Some would say this is the time to have an economist on board to steer the country through the crisis that may be staring at us.
Monday’s warning from rating agency S&P that India may become the first BRIC country to fall off a high growth trajectory has further strengthened calls for an economist in North Block. Parallels are being drawn with 1991 when the present Prime Minister, an economist by profession, was appointed the finance minister and unleashed an economic liberalisation that is credited to have catapulted the Indian economy to a high growth trajectory.
So, why has Manmohan Singh failed to make his magic work this time.
The reason: it was the politician, then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, who was the real facilitator of the change that came in 1991. Not the economist in Singh. This time around, it was Singh’s turn to play Rao’s role but he has failed, because he is an economist, and not a politician, at least of the kind that Rao was.
Our problem is not one of not having the right ideas to overcome the crisis. Ours is a case of lack of political wisdom, vision and will. More so in times such as now.
Hence, someone like CR Rangarajan, former RBI governor and currently chairman of the PM’s advisory council, can do little if he is made the finance minister. There are couple other names that have also been talked out, but as experience from elsewhere in the world shows it may be the worst of times to leave the economy in the hands of economists.
Because the crisis we have on hand is unlikely to find a solution in any of dominant economic paradigms. It runs much deeper and the solution perhaps lies beyond the realms of economics. Back home too, North block needs a political leader with wisdom and will to push not files but a new vision and new thinking.
Do we really have someone who fits the bill?
We will know when Pranabda makes it — if at all he does — to Rashtrapati Bhawan.