I hate to spoil the party but all those getting excited by the Economic Survey released on Thursday because it’s brimming with reforms, take a breather. Yes, it is the most reforms-friendly survey in a very long time -— everything from allowing foreign direct investment in restricted sectors and getting rid of senseless taxes to decontrol of oil and disinvestment is there in full glory.
But little of this is going to see the light of day on Monday or even later, as many commentators are expecting. To state the obvious, the economic survey and the budget speech are not, repeat not, drafted by the same team. Defining the two teams from a distance, the first comprises economists who build academic dreams and the second is made up of policymakers looking to raise and allocate money.
The biggest problem with the economic survey construction is that it has not moved with the times. “The survey used to serve a function earlier when information was scarce,” said Ajay Shah, senior fellow, National Institute for Public Finance and Policy. “Today, when you can get all that information the moment it comes out, it has lost its relevance.”
Old data, however, is only one part of the story. For, economists and analysts routinely rely on, and quote from, reports by multilateral institutions and the UN for trans-country data. The bigger issue is what it says —or doesn’t say. “To make the survey relevant, it should have analysis of data, an implementation map and the challenges on the execution of policy,” said Laveesh Bhandari, founder-director, Indicus.
While ending the survey might leave a large number of economists jobless, if it doesn’t evolve and serve the needs of a growing economy, it would end up useless.