‘India Needs Dedicated Economists, not Imported Experts’

Rajiv Kumar, Niti Aayog vice chairperson designate, says we may see individuals who understand India’s ground realities taking up key offices .


The influence of foreign thought on Indian policy-making, which was apparent during the last few decades, is on wane under the Narendra Modi government, according to Rajiv Kumar, the new Niti Aayog vice chairperson designate. Accordingly, we should expect to see the appointment of individuals who understand better the ground realities of India, instead of foreign-educated “imported experts”, Kumar said.

‘Dedicated to Work Till the End’

In a column published in the Hindi daily Dainik Jagran, Kumar referred to the exit of his predecessor Arvind Panagariya and former RBI head Raghuram Rajan, and said the country should now look forward to the appointment of policy-makers who remain dedicated to their work until the end of their term. “Though the excitement after the liberalisation of economy in 1991 has subsided, it took a long time for the policy-making establishment to get rid of the Macaulayist mentality,” he wrote in the piece.

Kumar, who is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and holds a DPhil in economics from Oxford and a PhD from Lucknow University, pointed out how expert alumni from domestic academic institutions were considered inferior and incapable of holding senior government posts. India’s policy creation until now was largely inspired by international establishments like the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank or foreign universities to which these experts had deep reverence, and involved proposals that were more theoretical than actually related to the grassroot situations in India, he said.

“Reagan-Thatcher-IMF models”

Talking about how India is currently at a juncture where “Reagan-Thatcher-IMF models” are not suitable, Kumar added that the country does not need experts who still follow this traditional thought.

The economist is a former CEO of the think-tank, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), and was the principal economist, Asian Development Bank, Manila, for almost a decade. He has also worked as the economic advisor in the Ministry of Finance. He was named as the new vice chairperson of Niti Aayog on August 5, five days after Panagariya announced that he was quitting the post to return to academics.

Panagariya, who had joined as the first vice chairman of the Niti Aayog, which had replaced the Planning Commission, in January 2015, said he would leave on August 31 as his leave from Columbia University was about to expire.

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