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Will Arvind Subramanian get two-year extension as chief economic advisor?

Many believe that the government, with just two more years to go, wants to experiment with new ideas from fresh economists.

india Updated: Aug 11, 2017 15:53 IST
Suchetana Ray
If his tenure is not extended, Arvind Subramanian will return to the Peterson Institute for International Economics – where he was employed as a senior fellow before his appointment by the Modi government.
If his tenure is not extended, Arvind Subramanian will return to the Peterson Institute for International Economics – where he was employed as a senior fellow before his appointment by the Modi government.(PTI File)

Chief economic advisor (CEA) Arvind Subramanian’s tenure comes to an end in October, and the big question is: Will he get a two-year extension?

Although it was widely believed until recently that Subramanian’s extension was certain, whispers of doubt have been heard in New Delhi’s corridors of power over the last few weeks. These suspicions have peaked since the sudden exit of NITI Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya, and it’s not just because they share the same first name. Many believe that the government, with just two more years to go, wants to experiment with new ideas from fresh economists.

Critics of the Modi government believe the new appointees are likely to be economists more tuned to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s economic views.

Subramanian was appointed as the CEA in October 2014, over a year after Raghuram Rajan’s elevation to Mint Street left the position vacant. If his tenure is not extended, Subramanian will return to the Peterson Institute for International Economics – where he was employed as a senior fellow before his appointment by the Modi government.

Subramanian has also promised to write a memoir that would disclose his views on demonetisation, the Prime Minister’s surprise move of yanking high-value currency notes from circulation. Though the government has hailed the move as its most radical economic reform yet, many insiders say it was done without consulting the CEA.

Subramanian has pushed several new ideas, such as the universal basic income and state-backed bad bank, and has been closely associated with the recently launched Goods and Services Tax.

The CEA has also had his share of controversies in the last two years. A quip that commenting on the Maharashtra beef ban would cost him his job resulted in a political brouhaha that resonated for days to come. His strong criticism of the Reserve Bank of India’s stance on monetary policy, when it refused to reduce rates in May, also attracted a lot of attention.

The top-ranking official even found himself at the receiving end of BJP MP Subramanian Swamy’s Twitter tirade in the recent past.

Before moving to New Delhi as the CEA, Subramanian had advised the Indian government in various capacities. He was also a part of the finance minister’s expert group on the G-20.

Subramanian also worked as an assistant director in the International Monetary Fund’s research department during the course of his career. Besides this, he was associated with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (1988–92) during the Uruguay round of trade negotiations, and taught at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government (1999–2000) and Johns Hopkins’ School for Advanced International Studies (2008–10).