by Elton Gomes
India could soon get its first woman chief economic advisor (CEA) after the post fell vacant at the end of Arvind Subramanian’s extended term in August.
The Narendra Modi government is now looking at candidates who could fill in one of the most important advisory roles in the administration. The Centre is doing this even though roughly six months remain of its five-year term, the Economic Times reported citing people knowledgeable of the matter.
Among those who could become India’s next CEA is Poonam Gupta, lead economist for India at the World Bank. Prior to joining the World Bank, Gupta was the Reserve Bank of India chair professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.
The government is seeking to fill the position after former CEA Arvind Subramanian resigned abruptly. Subramanian stepped down several months before his tenure as the government’s CEA was to expire.
With only six months remaining for the upcoming 2019 general elections, the Indian government has been on the lookout for a ‘fresh face’ to seek expert advice. The Finance Ministry appointed a search committee in October, which was headed by former Reserve Bank of India governor Bimal Jalan. Jalan has been tasked with shortlisting suitable candidates.
“We are looking at fresh faces and a committee is looking at candidates,” said a person familiar with the developments told the Economic Times.
India’s last two chief economic advisors —Raghuram Rajan and Subramanian —had experience at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. If Poonam Gupta gets appointed, it will be a continuation of that trend.
Other names on the list
Other names said to be under consideration were Sajjid Chinoy, chief India economist at JP Morgan, and Krishnamurthy Subramanian, a professor at the Indian School of Business.
Why did the previous CEA quit?
India’s former Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian resigned on June 20, 2018, after nearly four years. Subramanian termed his job as “the best job I ever had, not without controversies sometimes”, BloombergQuint reported.
Subramanian stepped down on account of “pressing family commitments” and will return to the U.S., Union Minister Arun Jaitley said in a blog post earlier. He took over as the CEA in October 2014 for a term of three years, and was last year given an extension till May 2019, which was the same as the tenure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
Jaitley credited Subramanian for conceptualising JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhar, Mobile) as a database for availing public benefits, coming out with newer ideas, policy reforms in the sectors of clothing, fertilisers, kerosene, power, and pulses.
What is the role of a CEA?
The Chief Economic Advisor is generally the go-to person when the finance minister needs advice on macro-economic matters.
A CEA’s primary responsibilities, among others, include authoring the mid-year analysis and the Economic Survey.
The post of the CEA ordinarily carries a three-year tenure, but the government can decide whether it wants to extend the tenure by one year. Considered a crucial government institution, the CEA’s post is important for monitoring performances of various key sectors.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius