ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The State of the Economy

Economic Survey 2016–17 is not what it should be—telling the truth about the economy without fear or favour.

In our understanding, a liberal intellectual is expected to speak and write the truth without fear or favour, besides, of course, other important attributes, among which are a questioning and a critical attitude towards the world around him/her. Going by the government’s Economic Survey 2016–17 (ES) released on 31 January, a day before the presentation of the Union Budget 2017–18, one might have serious doubts about the liberalism of the economists and the economic bureaucrats responsible for the production of that state-of-the-economy version. To be fair to them, given that the political spectrum itself has shifted quite significantly to the right, and the fact that both the Congress party and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the two main national parties, are far from being liberal, liberals in the government bureaucracy often seem to forget what a liberal is meant to be.

The writers of this year’s ES, or for that matter, any of the ESs that we have read in the past, do not seem to even think that they should look at the state of the economy in the light of what the finance minister and the Prime Minister had promised when it was presented last year. The Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had claimed that his budget was “pro-farmer” and “pro-poor,” and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had even stated that the aim was to “double” farmer income in five years. (The farmers who took him seriously would have assumed that he meant this in real terms, namely, adjusting for inflation.) Liberals in government must surely also be cynical; for everyone discounts the official hype that goes with the marketing—packaging, more precisely—of union budgets. But, should not an examination of the state of the economy tell the public how the government fared in terms of the priorities it set for itself? Or were Jaitley and Modi simply engaging in a mockery of our farmers? They thought that opening the marketing of food products like fruits and vegetables to multinational businesses would bring in a bonanza for the small cultivators of such products. They did not think that reversing the decline in public investment in agriculture as a proportion of agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) could have helped advance the objectives they had set for their government.

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Updated On : 31st Aug, 2017
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