By Hardik Rajgor
In a letter addressed to the finance minister, Arvind Subramanian writes, “Now is a good time to look back at my memorable, if patchy, tenure as chief economic advisor. Yes, I’d have loved it if we weren’t forced to do yoga every morning. On the bright side, it has made me fitter, although I wish I could say the same about the shape of our economy.”
Dear <insert name of Finance Minister here>,
I don’t know who I should address this mail to, because I’m not sure who the Finance Minister currently is. Are we doing the odd-even thing, where it’s Arun Jaitley on odd days and Piyush Goyal on even days? Anyway, I will address it to Arun Jaitley ji because I don’t know of any other way to say it – I am katti with Piyush Goyal.
I would like to tender my resignation from the post of Chief Economic Advisor after serving almost four years in office. The finance ministry seems to be a “sinking ship” – even Rahul Gandhi knows it – and I don’t want to be around when it hits the iceberg. The economy has hit a rough patch, fuel prices are rising, the rupee is getting weaker and the current account deficit is widening. I was among the world’s top 100 thinkers in 2011 – I can’t have a blip on my CV just because you lot can’t get your shit together.
However, the real truth is, I could’ve stayed a few more months as my term was about to expire anyway. But you never know what Donald Trump is up to; give him a few more days and he’ll even deny green cardholders entry into the United States. I would like to go back and continue my teaching assignment so stupid economists don’t end up in the White House, engaging in trade wars with China.
Endings are also a time for reflection, and now is a good time to look back at my memorable, if patchy, tenure. Yes, it would’ve been preferable if the government canteen served beef curry and we weren’t forced to do yoga every morning. On the bright side, it has made me fitter, although I wish I could say the same about the shape of our economy.
Still, we managed to launch an online education platform Swayam that got lost among the thousands of websites and apps that the government launches every other day. It was a shame that we created more websites than jobs over the last four years. My team also conceptualised the JAM trinity: Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, Mobile. Thanks to Venkaiah Naidu ji for that acronym.
Here’s a tip for my successor – no matter what they do, dear Finance Minister, I hope you’ll ensure that they stick to a generic colour for the Economic Survey cover.
But I don’t think I will get over one of the big disappointments of my term in a hurry: The Economic Survey 2017-18. I was proud of the effort from my team. We put in months of compilation, research, and analysis to publish a beautiful document… and all everyone could talk about was the friggin pink cover. Bunch of penny-wise, pound-foolish noobs. Here’s a tip for my successor – no matter what they do, dear Finance Minister, I hope you’ll ensure that they stick to a generic colour for the Economic Survey cover. Preferably orange.
I also suggested a simplified GST rate, restricting it to a maximum of two-three rates. I’m not saying the present GST structure is complex but along with the restaurant bill, people should also be handed over IIT application forms – because if you can get your head around how GST works, you are probably a genius and can make it to India’s premier institution. My suggestion was obviously ignored, because that’s how advisory roles work. They ask you for advice, pay you for it, and then go on to do whatever the hell they like.
Anyway. New endings, new beginnings. I should be thinking about happy things.
I am excited about going back to my family in the States, and also catching up with Raghuram Rajan and Arvind Panagriya. We’ll do what ex-employees usually do – meet over coffee and bitch about our former employers (except Amit bhai, of course, he has global reach).
I would also like to say thank you to the media that was relatively kind to me but my almost-namesake Subramanian Swamy was relentless. It is amazing how diametrically opposite two people with the same name can be. Rahul Gandhi and Rahul Dravid, Hardik Patel and Hardik Pandya. Narendra, Nirav, and Lalit… ok, maybe not.
Farewell, dear FinMin. I wish my successor the best and I pray for the well-being of my team because my God, you’re going to need it.
PS: Jaitley ji, let’s get on call so we can discuss reducing my notice period. Two months is a lot; Modi ji can finish touring six-seven countries in that timeframe.
Hardik Rajgor is an author at Arre.
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