Arvind Subramanian plays a mirror trick on NDA's note ban, forgets demonetisation happened under his watch


If there was a Sherlock Holmes detective thriller to be written on Arvind Subramanian’s tenure on the Finance Ministry in New Delhi, it would nicely be titled, ‘The Curious Case of the Demonetised Advisor.’ We additionally have to do some good sleuthing to search out out what the previous chief financial advisor to the Authorities of India actually means when he describes the outlawing of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination forex notes on that fateful night time of eight November 2016, as “draconian”—the phrase a dictionary describes as “excessively harsh and extreme.”

Commentators who’re now berating the US-based economist for both not quitting in protest over the transfer after being social gathering to the controversial resolution by Prime Minister Narendra Modi must learn between the traces of his forthcoming e book and in addition previous some silences and occasions to get some important clues on what actually occurred. Or might need.

To start out with, anybody figuring out the lay of the land at North Block could also be mistaken in saying that demonetisation occurred proper below the advisor’s nostril. That might not be true both actually or figuratively.

All anecdotes and accounts recommend that the demonetisation that appears to have considerably backfired (besides within the eyes of its protagonists) was such an enormous secret that it might go down in historical past as a lot for its darkish stealth as for its failed pursuit of black wealth. They are saying even finance minister Arun Jaitley was introduced in on the final hour. If  Subramanian was not consulted, because it seems, ought to he be blamed within the first place?

File picture of Arvind Subramanian. Courtesy: PIB

So our focus ought to shift to what the chief financial advisor did after demonetisation occurred. The CEA’s put up has a quasi-institutional high quality and Subramanian by all accounts excelled in his position because the eloquent writer of the annual pre-budget financial survey that’s supposed to present an goal account of the previous 12 months’s hits and misses within the financial system. Some Shakespearean clues lie right here.

Subramanian is now in a Mark Antony act from Julius Caesar as he slams the federal government at the same time as he appears to reward the “honourable males” who surrounded him. Nevertheless, within the spring of 2017, he was within the throes of a Hamletian dilemma, in a “to be or to not be” mind set.

Chapter three of the financial survey of the demonetisation 12 months is titled “To Deify or Demonize”. The selection of phrases then appears to supply criticism formed as doubt, whereas the selection of phrases now seems to supply condemnation as description.

The survey that spoke of the “secrecy and suddenness” of the notice ban has one telling para: “The general public debate on demonetisation has raised three units of questions. First, broader points of administration, as mirrored within the design and implementation of the initiative. Second, its financial affect within the brief and medium run. And, third, its implications for the broader imaginative and prescient.”

And it goes on to say: “This Survey will not be the discussion board to debate the primary query.” Thus, the CEA, a lot earlier than departing his chair had saved the choice open to debate this in future, as he appears to be doing in his impending e book. The survey appeared to defend the demonetisation by calling it a “reverse helicopter drop” to suck out cash, but it surely fastidiously added that any try and guess its future can be “hazardous.”

Nicely, away from Floor Zero Subramanian describes the identical occasion as a “huge, Draconian financial shock.” Image the previous occasion now like a helicopter that contained a vacuum cleaner to suck out not wads of forex notes however poor employees and farmhands caught in lengthy queues exterior ATM machines. Here’s a man who is meant to have shown a mirror to the federal government but it surely appears to have had a convex-concave trick — the type that they cost you for exhibiting humorous, mocking faces in village gala’s.

The CEA clearly ploughed a lonely furrow throughout his tenure however for some appreciative gestures from Jaitley. And let or not it’s remembered that other than Subramanian himself, Jaitley was additionally focused by Subramanian Swamy, a sitting BJP member of the Rajya Sabha, with none left to considerably defend both within the ruling social gathering. You would even interpret the entire thing as a touch for the CEA to resign, which he did, finally. However, the CEA for essentially the most half most popular to be resigned to his destiny than resign his workplace on precept.

You would say the CEA was himself considerably demonetised in design whereas being honoured for a interval, very similar to the high-value notes that went out of the system amid fanfare and confusion. He’s popping up once more to make use of much less fancy expressions to explain what in proximity appeared to us like an optical phantasm of help for the demonetisation.

Not like Raghuram Rajan, who was consulted on the notice ban whereas he was heading the Reserve Financial institution of India (RBI) and mentioned a agency ‘no’, for all sensible functions, Subramanian was introduced with a fait-accompli that he may justify solely with the facility of his literary creativeness. With equal creativeness, he’s now hitting on the authorities, and that’s certain to be an excellent factor for the gross sales of his e book. We are able to now look forward to an I-told-you-so assertion from Subramanian Swamy, with whom the previous CEA appears to share little other than half his identify.

The mirror Subramanian spoke of has now became a hand lens and is making an attempt to warmth up the federal government in an election 12 months. Very like the NDA authorities’s new again sequence GDP data that present the predecessor UPA’s financial efficiency to be poorer than its personal,  Subramanian’s present description of the previous occasion he witnessed from shut quarters is controversial for its engineered hindsight.

What’s it they are saying about karma and sowing as you reap?

( The author is a senior journalist and commentator. He tweets as @madversity)

 



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