War of words over Rajiv Kumar’s column on foreign influence in policymaking

While Bibek Debroy echoed his view in Twitter, Pronob Sen questioned Kumar’s conclusion

 

Rajiv Kumar did his D.Phil from University of Oxford. Illustration: Binay Sinha
Rajiv Kumar did his D.Phil from University of Oxford. Illustration: Binay Sinha

economy news: A war of words over foreign influence on Indian policymaking broke out on Tuesday after NITI Aayog vice-chairman-designate Rajiv Kumar suggested in a newspaper column that Indian-American economists were fading away as part of the ongoing policy transformation in the government.

Kumar had referred to the exit of incumbent NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya and former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Raghuram Rajan, and wrote that “if Lutyens’ Delhi rumours are to be believed, more such resignations can come”. Rajiv Kumar also said that as a result of this transformation, the country might witness appointment of individuals with much better understanding of India’s ground realities.

While Bibek Debroy, Kumar’s future colleague in the NITI Aayog, took to Twitter to echo his view, former chief statistician and principal director in the erstwhile Planning Commission Pronab Sen questioned Kumar’s conclusion.

“The foreign influence wanes, So read the weather vanes. Filthy lucre of a foreign land/ Has sullied many a hand/ And fogged the brains,” Debroy tweeted.

The tweet got an avalanche of response and the sarcasm was evident. Washington-based Sadanand Dhume responded: “All this is very well/ But it’s hard to sell/ Cambridge as a native school/ Oxford as a gurukul/ How some manage, pray tell.”

Kumar did his D.Phil from Oxford, and Debroy was in Cambridge.

Panagariya, who will be returning to Columbia University in the US as professor, told a TV channel that he did not want to comment on the issue. He also refused to talk about his precedessor or successor.

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Author Ravi Mantha wrote, “Rushed back from distant shores / to join the rushing tide./ Stepped into manure for an uncertain tenure./ But luckily kept our foreign sinecure.”

Sen, now country director for the International Growth Centre’s (IGC) India Central Programme, was more straightforward in his response. “I don’t think it is an issue of whether home-grown economists are better than those who have worked abroad. To me the real issue is what your axiomatic approach to economics is.”….

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