New Delhi: Former finance secretary Subhash Garg Saturday alleged that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had insisted on transferring him out of the ministry within a month of her assuming office.
Garg has for the first time blamed Sitharaman for his unceremonius exit, and has even been sharply critical of her handling of the ministry.
Sitharaman had a “different personality, knowledge endowment, skill-set and approach for economic policy issues and also for the officers working with her”, he said.
Read the full blog post here:
Today I complete one year of taking voluntary retirement from the IAS on 31st October 2019. As government rules restrict the officers from taking up any commercial employment for a period of one year after retirement, this one-year period was a period of transition out of the government employment. The transition gets completed today. The new phase of public policy service as a private citizen begins now.
Took voluntary retirement exactly a year earlier
On this day last year, I left the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), taking voluntary retirement, after completing government and public service for over 36 years. I left the government one year before my normal date of superannuation, which in the normal course would have been today.
As I stated in my Note, the IAS provided me unrivalled space and opportunity to work in public administration and public policy space. I got enormous opportunities to administer numerous programmes of public benefit. I got unparalleled opportunity of serving in public institutions operating at all levels – villages, tehsils, sub-divisional headquarter, district, state, national and international.
Despite an average tenure of less than one year in a post and several run-ins with seniors and ministers, I had an incredibly satisfying public service career. I never asked for or tried for any particular position throughout my career, yet I was posted quite a few times on posts which most people consider as the best positions in Government. This included prestigious positions of the Principal Secretary, Finance in the Government of Rajasthan (twice), Executive Director in the World Bank and Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Government of India.
I have excellent credentials in the field of economy and finance (topped the Intermediate examination of the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India and the Final examination of the Institute of Companies Secretaries of India). My interest was to work in finance related positions in departments, institutions and organisations in the state of Rajasthan, my cadre, and also nationally and internationally. Though only in the second half of my service life, did I get excellent opportunities to work in finance (both at the centre and the state and also at the best of international organisations).
The parting Note which I shared with friends and acquaintances on 31st October, the day I quit, went viral. It had more than 2.27 lakh views on LinkedIn alone attracting numerous views and comments on social media. It seemed to have touched the hearts and minds of a lot of people. I am thankful for an excellent and encouraging feedback.
Why did I take voluntary retirement?
Many people have asked me why did I leave the IAS and quit the Government. There were two principal reasons.
First, I sensed the Indian economic policy was getting distracted from what was required to attain her stated goal of building a $10 trillion dollar economy by early 2030s.
Let me explain a bit more.
Not long before my transfer from the Ministry of Finance in July 2019, the government had presented the Interim Budget 2019-20 in February 2019. In the Interim Budget, the Government boldly declared India’s ambition of building a $10 trillion economy. I quote from the budget speech, which I had the privilege to draft:
“We are poised to become a Five Trillion Dollar Economy in the next five years and aspire to become a Ten Trillion Dollar Economy in the next 8 years thereafter.”
The Interim Budget 2019-20 also articulated Government’s ten-dimensional “Vision for Next Decade”. The Vision envisaged “building physical as well as social infrastructure for a ten trillion dollar economy”, creating “a Digital India reaching every sector of the economy, every corner of the country and impacting the life of all Indians”, making “India a pollution free nation with green Mother Earth and blue Skies”, an India with “clean rivers, with safe drinking water to all Indians, sustaining and nourishing life”, making India “a global manufacturing hub” and an India “self-sufficient in food, exporting to the world to meet their food needs and producing food in the most organic way”. These were the prominent elements of India’s Vision 2030. This was the clearest articulation of the aspirational India and to transform India to a high-income society from a lower middle-income country.
India has done reasonably well since the turn of millennium. India’s GDP was a little over $600 billion in 2003. It had grown to over $2.7 trillion by 2018. India’s GDP, despite setbacks of years following the global financial crisis of 2008-09, had more than quadrupled in 15 years. To reach to $10 trillion GDP from the 2018 base of $2.7 trillion by 2033, i.e. over a period of 13 years required India to multiply her 2018 GDP by about 3.7 times. This certainly was an ambitious goal but eminently achievable given our potential and past performance.
I must mention that, at the time of presentation of the interim budget 2019-20, the Government was aware of the fact that the Indian economy had started slowing down.
India’s growth in second half of 2018-19 was only around 6%. Capital investment was falling. The financial system, most significantly the public sector banks, which still have the dominant share of credit, were in a lot of bother. IL&FS collapse had shaken the non-banks and credit system. Turnover and profitability of several public sector entities, heavy engineering and power equipment manufacturers, telecom and several other services enterprises etc. had gone down with a number of these entities slipping into red.
Government’s revenue growth had become muted. The revenue targets for 2018-19 and 2019-20 were in the danger of being missed by a wide margin. Make-in-India programme was moving at a snail’s pace with competitiveness of Indian manufacturing not improving much. India was further losing its low share in global exports.
The dynamism in Indian economy was imparted by the economic reforms of 1990s which generated an average growth of over 7% for more than 25 years. However, it was quite evident that these economic reforms had run its course by 2010s. Only a new economic and financial sector policy regime can reverse the decline/stagnation and put India on a high growth trajectory again.
Despite the worrying growth and investment trends, the Government had lot of confidence in its ability to undertake bold reforms. The Government had credibly implemented ambitious public welfare programmes like electricity for all, LPG gas connection to every poor household, health insurance for more than 40% of Indian households, toilets for all under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and many more.
The general elections were due very soon after the interim budget was presented and the Government was quite confident of coming back and undertaking requisite economic reforms in the second tenure. India needed a big economic policy reset, more ambitious and comprehensive in its scope than the 1990s reforms and the Government looked ready to bite the bullet after the elections.
India, after independence, built her economic system under the policy rubric of socialist pattern of society, where the Government became the policy maker, the regulator and the producer of most capital goods and major industrial goods of public consumption. This was India’s Economic Policy 1.0.
The reforms initiated in 1990s formed India’s Economic Policy 2.0. The reforms changed the economic system into a private sector led real and financial economy though the public sector retained substantial presence, most notably in the financial space. The system operating after Economic Policy 2.0 took root was the real mixed economy model. Inefficiency, dominant position and lack of real enterprise made the public sector turnout poor performance year after year and increasingly become sick and inefficient user of capital. India’s under-performance and slowdown since 2010 was largely due to the inadequacies of the Economic Policy 2.0.
A new vision, a new set of economic policy and bold reforms were needed to put India on higher growth path of 8-10% annual growth. It was time to work on India’s Economic Policy 3.0. I did a lot of conceptual work during March-May 2019 for such a policy framework. Part of that work was is in the 100 policy reform agenda which I made public later on 7thNovember.
The situation, after elections 2019, unfortunately took a turn for worse.
The government did talk about making India a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25 after the elections and winning a great majority. But the reform agenda and the investment plan for attaining the goal of $10 trillion economy articulated in the Interim Budget 2019-20 however, got side-tracked and was virtually forgotten.
The Government was turning populist as well. As part of a 100 days programme, a number of announcements were made aimed to please specific constituencies. Reform agenda was acquiring tinge of being more short term and tinkering type. I had expected the Government to take the requisite bold reforms in first six months. However, this did not seem to be the case. While the real economic reform agenda seemed like getting relegated to a side-show, the non-economic priorities started assuming primary space.
The main budget 2019-20 presented on 5th July was a recital of great work done in the previous five years. It did not, however, have a single major economic reform. Some proposals for reforming sectoral foreign direct investment limits, issuing foreign currency sovereign bonds, selling share below the 51% limit in case of public sector, which I could push through, were not good enough to alter the course of economic system materially.
I was getting quite disappointed. I sensed that the opportunity to work on big and bold economic reform agenda was slipping away. If there was no good opportunity to work on reform and building of $10 trillion dollar economy, there was no great fun in working in the government. This was the first major reason of my contemplating to leave the Government.
Second reason, quite frankly, was that I did not share a good and productive working relationship with the new Finance Minister and I did not want to work anywhere outside the Ministry of Finance.
Finance Minister, besides being responsible for the management of government finances, is the principal architect and driver of country’s economic policy agenda. Deep knowledge and understanding of the economy, the financial system and the public finances pave the way of the Finance Minister in discharging this role effectively.
Shri Arun Jaitley, with whom I spent most of my time in the Ministry of Finance, was a mastermind with an uncanny ability to sift through massive amounts of information and government files to discover the pith and substance of the public policy issue involved. He also had right temperament and ability to forge consensus. By devising the most acceptable solutions and then engendering wider acceptance for the same, Shri Jaitley was able to get solutions for most divisive and intractable solutions accepted by all. The GST reforms are a case in point.
Shri Jaitley focused on broader policy issues. He left the running of the departments and implementation of policies to the Secretaries. He genuinely encouraged contribution on major policy issues to come from the Secretaries. He made the Secretaries present the policy proposals to the Prime Minister’s Office as well as to the media and the public. He was a very magnanimous and broadminded person.
It was the best of the time personally and professionally to work with Shri Arun Jaitley.
The new incumbent after the elections, Mrs. Nirmala Sitaraman, has a very different personality, knowledge endowment, skill-set and approach for economic policy issues and also for the officers working with her. It became quite apparent very early that working with her was going to be quite difficult and it might not be conducive to undertaking necessary reforms for the attainment of the objective of building a $10 trillion economy of India.
She, for reasons not very clearly known to me, came with some pre-conceived notions about me. She did not seem to have confidence in me. She was not quite comfortable working with me as well. Serious difference also developed on some key issues like economic capital framework of RBI, package for dealing with problems of non-banks, resolution of non-banks, partial credit guarantee scheme, capitalisation of non-banks like IIFCL and other financial entities and the like. Very soon, not only had our personal relationship soured, but the official working relationship also become quite unproductive.
Mrs. Sitaraman asked for and insisted on my transfer from the Ministry of Finance in June 2019 itself, within one month of her taking over as FM.
Ministry of Finance, especially the Department of Economic Affairs, is the place where an officer gets the widest possible view of the Indian economy and participates, in various ways, in the decision making relating to the policy framework for entire economic part of the government. I did not want to work in the government outside the Ministry of Finance.
The budget was due to be presented on 5th July, within 35 days of her taking over as Finance Minister. Despite quite a few episodes of acrimony which had made the working environment unpleasant, I decided that I would do everything possible to see that budget was not harmed and it was delivered on time. Nonetheless, I made up my mind in the month of June 2019, much before the Budget was presented, that I would take voluntary retirement from the Service to be able to work on the wider economic reform agenda outside the government.
I drafted my months’ notice for voluntary retirement sometime in the fourth week of June after going through the rules relating to voluntary retirement and decided to seek it from 31st October 2019. Anjali, my wife, agreed with my decision and to the timing of leaving the government service, exactly one year before my normal date of superannuation.
Dr. P. K. Mishra, then Additional Principal Secretary, who oversaw appointments and transfers in the PMO, asked me to come over for a chat on 18th July. He knew of the situation fully. In fact, we had discussed my relationship with Mrs. Sitharaman on a few occasions before as well. Both of us agreed that the best course would be for me to make way for the new FM to ‘function smoothly’. Dr. Mishra was quite generous and gracious. He offered me to choose any job in the government or outside the government in regulatory bodies or elsewhere. I thanked him and the Prime Minister profusely.
I informed him that I had already made up my mind to seek voluntary retirement. He felt quite upset about my proposal to leave the Service. I explained to him that my decision to leave the government was not out of any pique or resentment, but quite a well-considered one and that this was in my best interests. He asked me to reconsider my decision anytime.
I filed for voluntary retirement on 24th July, the day I was transferred to the Ministry of Power instead of 31st October, 2019, the date I had originally intended. My notice was on way to be scanned and sent to the Government of Rajasthan, appropriate government to grant me voluntary retirement, within 30 minutes of the transfer order being issued. As always, I had a good night sleep on that day as well.
Presenting my reforms proposals to Prime Minister
I continued to work on the economic reform agenda during my three months’ stay in the Ministry of Power as I had this belief that the Prime Minister Modi had the ability and the mandate to put India on the course of fundamental reforms needed for India to achieve its rightful destiny.
The Prime Minister Office had given me time before my transfer to present my proposals of economic reforms. I again sought time to do so a few days after moving to the Ministry of Power.
I first sent the proposals in writing in early August, which the PM got examined in the PMO. My proposals were broken down Department by Department and circulated to get their comments. I got the opportunity to present my reform proposals to the Prime Minister personally in early September. He appeared genuinely interested. He wanted PMO to work on these proposals. He also asked to me make presentation for presenting these proposals to his Cabinet colleagues. I did not, however, hear anything from his office after the meeting. I did not follow up either.
Finally, a day before 31st October, 2019, my last day in the government, I saw Dr. P.K. Mishra and Shri P K Sinha and left the latest version of my proposals for the reform agenda with them. Shri P K Sinha mentioned that the Prime Minister had asked him to look at my proposals and come back to him.
I felt I had done my duty.
A highly satisfying year
Complying with the service rules, I did not take up any commercial employment during this period. I made it a point that I would stay away from the Government completely during this period. While many officers do take permission from the government to take up such employment, I decided not to seek any permission.
Public policy, in the domain of economy, finances and fiscal management, has always interested me deeply. Public administration and public policy were the reason of my joining the IAS. I did a lot of this work in the government during 36 years of service in the IAS. I would continue to do this outside the government- in private sector and real public space.
The transition has been enormously satisfying. I have been quite busy. It has been quite productive as well.
Studied and wrote extensively
I have been able to devote considerable time to study, understand and master Indian economy. I could extensively study contemporary developments and issues connected with Indian economy, in the domestic and the global context.
- I had time to delve into treasure troves of information about economic situation and policy making and developments since our independence. Reading the History of RBI, Reports of the Census of 1951 and Five-Year Plans have been extremely enriching. I wanted to acquire a good grip on Indian economy and financial system in its most comprehensive form.
- This pursuit proved to be doubly rewarding. I could reduce my understanding and learnings in authoritative write-ups on critical and significant policy dimensions of Indian economy and financial system.
- I wrote a number of articles on all aspects of Indian economy- ranging from agriculture reforms, land reforms, industrial reforms, digital economy, small and medium enterprises, credit system, currency reforms, monetary system, power sector, telecom sector and so many others. I also spoke in several webinars and online discussions.
- There are 47 articles/ blogs which I posted on my blog page subhashchandragarg.blogspot.com. The write-ups were also posted on my LinkedIn account. I provided links to my blog on my twitter handle @Subhashgarg1960.
- Lot of people, newspapers/magazines, public servants, educationists and students took note of these blogs. Some wanted to publish some or all blogs in book form, in their journals and other publications. I provided my consent quite happily.
- Some blogs created quite a bit of flutter nationally and internationally. My blog on fiscal deficits and debt in India got viewed more than 8,000 times. Quite a few of these notes on LinkedIn also attracted considerable viewership, exceeding 10,000 views. I felt happy that I was contributing to some much needed and meaningful debate on economic issues facing the country and the reforms India badly needs.
- My blog on Lockdown, Stimulus and Growth published on 2nd June 2019 was read thousands of times. Many people used the messages in in that article in their own comments and write ups.
- I felt assured about my understanding of the dynamics of Indian economy as I could, based on my extensive analysis of all the three dimensions of GDP- value added, expenditure and incomes- I reached to the conclusion that Indian economy was in for a massive 10% contraction in 2020-21. At that point of time, the Government and RBI were reluctant to even speak about the likely impact of Covid-19 and lockdown on Indian economy. Most international institution or think tanks were projecting contraction to be around less than 5% until June-July. By now, almost every institution, academic, multilateral or credit rating has come around to accept that India would witness a once in 100 years kind of contraction between 9-11%.
- On a show on the ET Now one day before the official announcement of GDP growth numbers for the first quarter, I gave out, quite unambiguously, my estimate of the contraction of Q1 GDP by 25%. I felt vindicated next day when CSO announced contraction of 23.9%.
Spoke to national and international investment and economic community
I got number of invitations from institutions and people within and outside the country to speak on economy and financial issues all through the year.
Visited the US, UK and Singapore twice and Canada once in the first four months (November 19-February 20), before Covid-19 put stop to all travel. I spoke to a cross section of economists, policy makers, judges, fund managers, investors, students and the like during my interactions.
These interactions shifted to video and audio webinars after India decided to lock itself down economically on 23rd March 2020. I must have participated in more than 25 such webinars as a key note speaker or one of the lead speakers.
Advisor (Resources) to Chief Minister Andhra Pradesh
An interesting turn in my professional occupation took place when the Government of Andhra Pradesh offered me, in February 2020, to become Advisor to the Chief Minister, Andhra Pradesh on fiscal resources. I accepted this offer and joined this position on March 1st to work for about 7-10 days a month. The Government of Andhra Pradesh and the Chief Minister were gracious to offer me the rank of a Cabinet Minister. Though I never wore this rank on my sleeves, it indeed brought a feeling of honour and being valued.
Andhra Pradesh finances are in deep problem. I worked with the Government to identify some long-term reforms to put Andhra finances on a sustainable path. Covid-19 risk prevented me to visit Andhra Pradesh every month.
In July 2020 when I visited Vijayawada after the flights resumed, an officer who participated in my day long meetings and was also in my Car travelling from the hotel to the Secretariat and on return journey tested positive next day. All the six officers who participated in my meetings and me were tested next day. Fortunately, all of us tested negative and I could complete my week-long visit, including having a meeting with the Chief Minister on the last day of the visit.
Created Our Home in Delhi
I could embark on two highly constructive and creative projects during the year. These projects are taking final shape now.
The first relates to establishing our home in Delhi for the next phase of life. The second answers to my deep-seated desire to present my understanding of Indian economy and proposals for economic reforms in the country in the form of a book.
Anjali and I had purchased a first floor flat in a South Delhi DDA SFS colony of 1980s vintage in 2007 when we decided to move our permanent residence from Jaipur to Delhi. This is a small flat of about 1100 square feet.
We thought of searching a home in Vasant Vihar, an upscale residential hub in South Delhi. This did not turn out to be workable proposition. After doing a lot of search in Vasant Vihar and also other good residential addresses for over three months- November 2019 to January 2020, we finally decided to buy the ground floor flat, right below our flat, in February 2020.
This flat belonged to Smt. Mohan Rani Kaul, deceased widow of Dr. Mohan Kumar Kaul, Kashmiri pandits. The flat was lying closed since 2015 when Smt. Kaul died (Mr. Kaul had passed away in 2012). The flat was in quite a bad shape as no work had been done in it since taking possession in early 1980s and it was lying closed without any maintenance for four years.
Kauls’ story is quite remarkable and touching. Shri Kaul was an eminent doctor in J&K (he had risen to be the superintendent of Srinagar Medical College after serving in the Government of J&K for over three decades). They had to relocate themselves to Delhi after Kashmiri pandits were made to flee from Srinagar in eighties. While they had the foresight to book this DDA flat in late 1970s, initially, they had to live in a servant quarter, which they bought along with the Flat, for over two years as it took some time and effort to get their flat vacated from a tenant.
The sale deed was signed by the four daughters of Kauls. They are aged between 65-80 years. Two of them are American citizens. We had known three of them since we shifted in 2007. Mrs. Kaul had developed an emotional connect with Anjali, especially after she was left alone in 2012. She used to refer to Anjali as her fifth daughter.
Kauls invested in the education of their daughters during times when girls’ education was not all that encouraged in the country. It was pleasure to interact with the four ladies; three of them have been medical doctors and one an engineer. They were successful professionals in their own right. One of them rose to be the Medical Superintendent of Lucknow Medical College.
We decided to integrate the two flats in a kind of duplex home. The sale deed was signed on February 8th 2020 and the work on site started in the last week of February. In retrospect, it appears we were quite lucky. Two of the Kaul daughters had travelled from the US to sign the sale deed and could return just in time before the Covid-19 disrupted all flights in March.
Very often officers on retirement complain of their erstwhile colleagues turning their backs on them after their retirement. My experience has been quite opposite and very pleasant.
- Despite living in Delhi for about 15 years, we were not very familiar with the rules and regulations applicable for the reconstruction of flats.
- Shri M. M. Kutty, who had been the Chief Secretary of Delhi Government and worked with me as Additional/Special Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs, spoke to the Sub-Registrar to facilitate registration of sale deed. Jitendra Rana, the sub-registrar concerned, was very helpful and registered the deed quite efficiently. He, in fact, was gracious to acknowledge that we were paying about three times the stamp duty and registration fees of the circle rate as we registered the sale deed at full consideration.
- Amit Yadav, with whom I had interacted during couple of postings earlier, introduced us to Aman Gupta, the Deputy Commissioner of South Delhi Municipal Corporation. Aman Gupta was extremely helpful in not only familiarising us with the rules which permitted coverage of adjoining courtyard area but also in processing the case for construction approval quite expeditiously. Architect Varun Tripathi and Junior Engineer Rahul Verma, always very courteous, were quite helpful. Shri Aman Gupta and Inspector Singh also guided us for obtaining mutation of property without any problem.
- We are the first residents of this DDA Enclave who obtained and received official permission from South Delhi Municipal Corporation to undertake such construction. This stood us very well when some neighbours, under the mistaken belief that we were doing some sort of illegal construction, complained to the MCD and Police. While the Police came thrice during the construction phase on such complaints at different stages, they were quite professional. When the copies of permissions were provided to the visiting policemen, they were quite respectful and left without creating any disturbance.
- S K Rahate, additional secretary in the Ministry of Power, who worked with me when I had moved as Secretary Power from Department of Economic Affairs, helped us get due mutation of electricity connection in our names and also in shifting of the electricity meters of all the three flats. Amal Sinha, MD, BSES provided excellent support in these matters.
We are quite close to completing the construction work, which involved considerable amount of modification work in these forty-year old DDA flats. We hope we would be able to move in our new home on Dhanteras.
Book on state of economy and reforms
The second project which I could initiate during this transition period was writing a book, tentatively titled ‘State of Indian Economy 2020 and What Will It Take India to Build a $10 Trillion Economy’.
The bug of how to make India a $10 trillion economy has been biting me for quite some time. I prepared a comprehensive presentation for the Prime Minister in August 2019 primarily to present serious and big reforms which India needs to have a good chance of cracking this challenge. The Vision Note which I published as my first blog on 7th November was also intended to present my proposals publicly.
Sometime in the middle of November 2019, I started getting deeper into specific sectors of Indian economy and write what I thought was the right diagnosis of the sector and the reforms which the sector needed. Most of the blogs I wrote in last one year bring out this diagnostic and the needed reform package.
When some people approached me to publish these blogs and some well-wishers suggested that I develop these articles in a book form, the idea of publishing my book, which was lying latent inside me, started taking shape. About four months back, a leading publisher also approached me to write this book. I then gave a serious thought to it.
Before starting the book, the question which I wanted to explore is- what is the value addition which my book will make?
There are numerous economic reports from the RBI, Government and other institutions which bring out comprehensive updates on different aspects of the Indian economy. These are all very valuable reports and give a very comprehensive account of the working of Indian economy. There are also a number of books written by RBI Governors and Dy Governors, ex-civil servants, public sector and private sector chief executives, leading editors and commentators. These are excellent commentaries and offer good insights into the evolution and outcomes of our economy’s journey to reach close to the present state of a $3 trillion economy.
It has always been my understanding that the economy is all about the people, the businesses and the policy makers. The big thing which I found missing in these reports and books is the perspective of the people, businesses and policy makers. As a consequence, in my judgement, these stakeholders might not understand much of what is so eruditely covered in these reports and books. I don’t think these people connect very well with these publications.
It is the people who are the consumers. It is the people who are the producers by providing all the labour and management. It is the people whose income and expenditure, whose savings and loans, whose employment and unemployment and whose health, nutrition and environment decide the state and health of the economy.
I thought a book on economy should be written from the people’s perspective. No econometric model, graphs, tables etc. need to be there. Simple and logical presentation and explanation of these ordinary phenomenon need to be explained in real context, in their language and the idiom they can relate to.
Policy makers have tremendous influence on the economy, which we don’t recognise consciously and explicitly. Fundamental policy decisions like choosing the basic model of the economy- capitalist, communist or a socialist- unleash so many forces that the economic outcome turns out to be starkly different under different models.
India’s choice of the socialist pattern of society led to the public sector dominance and exclusion of private enterprise from most important sectors of economy. This had tremendous effect on India’s growth for forty years. General and sectoral policies which government adopts for industry, agriculture, information technology, labour, property rights, banking, non-banking and so on determine the fate of businesses and enterprises immensely.
Policy has not been considered by economists as an explicit factor of production. In my judgement, economic policy is as important, if not more, a factor of production as labour or capital is. The productivity of labour and capital is determined as much by the government economic policy as good set of skills which labour brings and the capital which entrepreneurs bring. Most economic books consider an economy as an interplay of land and labour as the factors of production. I don’t think land is an independent factor of production in the industrial and digital economy. Land is an asset like machines and technology which the capital acquires. A book on economy needs to be around government policy, labour and capital as the factors of production.
I believe I would be writing my book to bring the perspective of people, businesses and policy makers and to explain what it would take to make India an economy of $10 trillion.
After I was approached in June by a leading publisher, I began assembling, arranging and re-writing my blogs keeping the objective of writing this book in mind. I found that I would need to divide my book in about 70-75 chapters to give due coverage to the functioning of Indian economy.
I am quite happy to utilise the opportunity afforded by lack of travel and other distractions post Covid-19 spread since March 2020. I could complete the first cut of about two-third of my book by now.
Plans for work now on
Today, I commence my life as a completely private person. I look forward to a horizon of next 15 years of productive and satisfying engagement in economic, financial and fiscal policy interface.
Last October when I released my Note, I spoke about India having a number of excellent think-tanks. I wrote that, in the economic and financial policy space, no single institution deals comprehensively with the complete spectrum of macro-economic policies, sectoral policies, financial policies, fiscal policies and monetary policies. I had hoped to lay the foundation of such an Economic and Financial Policy think-tank. I also spoke of my intention to establish a Foundation, contributing a part of my pension resources to establish such an Indian Economic and Financial Policy think tank.
I took initial steps to establish such a think tank. However, very soon I realised that the world has moved far away from the world of brick and mortar think tanks. Development of information technology has made the internet a virtual global library. Collaboration amongst researchers using digital media is far easier, varied and customised than working in physical meetings.
The realisation became a conviction after the Covid-19 risk brought out the productivity and utility of working from home and in a digitally collaborative mode. I now find that even the support research staff is far more productive working together as part of a digital network than working from a common work-place. My pursuit of knowledge to research for and write my blogs was overwhelming supported by the facility of the World Wide Web. I have abandoned the idea of establishing a think tank.
My visualisation of me, as I articulated last year, as a kind of policy analyst, strategist and advocate for contributing development of right kind of economic and financial policy framework for India achieving the goal of becoming a 10 trillion-dollar economy -a kind of policy craftsman- has got further strengthened during the year.
There is a lot of cynicism presently about India’s ability to become even a $5 trillion economy anytime soon. This is largely because of government taking the eye of the ball of economic growth and making a big self-goal by imposing world’s most stringent lockdown in the entire country at a time when the virus was not present in more than 1% of India.
I remain optimistic and confidant that India can and will come back on the high growth path. My twitter handle says it all where I describe myself as “Economy, Finance and Fiscal Policy Strategist. Seriously interested in India becoming a 10 trillion-dollar economy”. My intention of working for this goal has got further strengthened during last twelve months.
I intend to work to help realise this goal over next 15 years. I would be quite a satisfied person if India is able to be a $10 trillion economy by the time I turn 75 in 2035.
Completing my book and publishing it would be my priority in next six months.
I will begin to engage in the real-world businesses and services. I have begun reviving my professional memberships. The Institute of Cost Accountants of India (ICAI) has restored my membership. The Institute of Company Secretaries of India is in the process of doing so. I also propose to join a Bar Association to make professional use of my legal qualifications.
I am accepting an independent directorship from the 2nd of November. ADB has sought my services to provide policy advice to the Government of Uzbekistan for their long-term economic development and poverty reduction. I have also been offered a role as an arbitrator in a dispute involving two public sector entities- one a central entity and the other a state entity.
I look forward to engage more actively in the functioning of national economy and also economic, financial and fiscal policy making
I am quite excited and geared up for the life outside the government.
(This article has been republished from Subhash Chandra Garg’s blog.)