February 1, 2022 - 5:24 am

Govt Appoints New Chief Economic Advisor

The government has appointed Venkatraman Anantha Nageswaran as its chief economic advisor (CEA) days before the tabling of the 2021-22 Economic Survey (on January 31) and the presentation of the 2022-23 Union Budget (on February 1). Nageswaran succeeds KV Subramanian who returned to academia at the end of his three-year term in December 2021.

His appointment comes at a time when India’s economy is showing signs of recovery, but faces some fresh challenges due to the impact of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the challenges that he along with the finance ministry need to tackle include income inequality and growing unemployment among its billion-plus population. The new CEA will be responsible for providing fresh ideas to bolster growth, investments and limiting fiscal deficit. In his new role, Nageswaran would be required to share views on key policy matters with the finance minister as well as being the lead author of the Economic Survey, which is the annual report card of the economy that gets tabled in Parliament ahead of the budget.

Dr Venkatraman Anantha Nageswaran is a distinguished economist involved primarily in the field of academia. Nageswaran graduated with a post-graduate diploma in Management (MBA) from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad in 1985. He later obtained a doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1994 for his work on the empirical behaviour of exchange rates. It may be noted that he had held several leadership roles in macro-economic and capital market research for several private wealth management institutions in Switzerland and in Singapore between 1994 and 2011. The economist also helped co-found the Takshashila Institution, an independent centre for research and education in public policy, and helped launch the first impact investment fund of the Aavishkaar Group in 2001. Nageswaran is a visiting distinguished professor of economics at Krea University. He also worked as a part-time member of the Prime Minister’s economic advisory council between 2019 and 2021. He has also co-authored multiple books, including ‘The Economics of Derivatives’ and ‘The Rise of Finance: Causes, Consequences and Cures’.

Nageswaran comes to North Block at a time when all eyes are on the Budget, to be presented by Finance Minister Sitharaman on February 1. The Budget is expected to continue the focus on reviving growth though large-scale public investment in infrastructure and sector-specific interventions. While there has been a strong recovery in 2021-22, it is still not broad-based across sectors. Meanwhile, household incomes and consumption continue to be stressed as inflation and increased healthcare expenditure have hit families. Job creation still remains a concern and, according to various studies, millions are said to have slipped back into poverty since the pandemic struck India. These are the challenges on which Nageswaran will have to advise the finance minister and the government. Those who have known and worked with Nageswaran say his biggest task will be to provide ideas to the government which are actionable. One such person, who did not wish to be identified, told that Nageswaran is a data-oriented academic who is open to new ideas and opposing views. The person said Nageswaran “puts in a lot of hard work in trying to understand the nuts and bolts of an issue”. Nageswaran has recently in his columns stressed on the need for post-Covid economic re-evaluation and the impact of the pandemic on several sectors of the economy.

Nageswaran’s appointment has also been welcomed by those from across the political aisle. The prestigious post of the chief economic advisor had also been held by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former central bank governor Raghuram Rajan. This Economic Survey report is usually prepared by the Chief Economic Advisor, but this year, it was done by the principal economic advisor and other officials as the post remained vacant following KV Subramaniam's term.