Budget 2019-20: Will it help India’s farmers? Jayati Ghosh

Everyone expected the Modi government to do something big – or at least promise something big – before the general elections. Everyone also sensed that it would be something to do with farmers, one of the economic and social concerns that has now also become a political talking point. But perhaps no one expected that the government would dare to make massive budgetary commitments for the coming year in a Vote on Account (or Interim Budget), which is constitutionally outside the mandate of an outgoing government. A Vote on Account is only supposed to include spending measures for the immediate…

Budget (Interim or Otherwise) 2019 and the Employment Crisis Jayati Ghosh

Unbelievable but true: there is nothing – repeat, nothing at all – in the Budget to deal with the job crisis. This is crazy, since lack of employment (especially for the young) and the problems in agriculture have emerged as the biggest two problems in the Indian economy and society today. It is also politically tone-deaf, since the government should really have been on the back foot on this one, as its suppression of official jobs data (the NSSO Survey of 2017-18) cleared by the National Statistical Commission, had just been exposed. In the circumstances, it was only to be…

Neither Interim, nor Substantial C. P. Chandrasekhar

In a pre-election budget speech filled with propaganda about the supposed developmental achievements of the Modi government, substitute Finance Minister Piyush Goyal read out a text that both window-dressed the revised estimates and violated all norms that should apply to an Interim Budget. Principally, the speech lays out three sets of changes on the expenditure side with the hope clearly of winning votes at election time: one to provide for a Rs. 6,000 crore cash transfer in a year to “landholding” farmers with holding size upto 2 hectares; a contributory pension scheme for unorganised workers with monthly income upto Rs.…

On the Proposal for A Universal Basic Income Prabhat Patnaik

With Rahul Gandhi’s announcement recently at Raipur that his Party had taken a “historic decision” to introduce an income guarantee scheme for the poor, and with the general anticipation that the Modi government’s last budget will also announce an income support scheme in some form, at least for the “farmers”, the idea of a “universal basic income” for the Indian population is once more in the air. This idea was mooted two years ago in the Government of India’s Economic Survey, though it was meant only for discussion and represented the views not of the government itself but rather of…

The Motivated Murder of India’s Statistical System Jayati Ghosh

The attacks by the Modi government on many of India's institutions have been noted, but the destruction of India’s statistical system was not adequately recognised or condemned. That is, not until the latest revelations on how the Government is refusing to release the NSSO’s employment survey for 2017-18 led to the resignation of the last two remaining independent Members of the National Statistical Commission. This attack on official statistics is obviously important, because it denies citizens access to reliable data on what is going on in the economy and assess the government’s performance. It is sad, because India had managed…

Here’s what Modi’s 2019 budget can – but won’t – do about India’s jobs crisis Jayati Ghosh

The Brahmastra, or ultimate weapon, of 10% reservation in government employment for economically weaker sections (EWS) has been cynically deployed already, but even that does not seem to be delivering the desired public approval. Perhaps the general public has wised up to the fact that central government jobs have in fact declined over the past four years (by more than 75,000 since 2014) and so a small reserved portion of a shrinking pie does not seem all that attractive. However, even in the limited time available, there is much a committed government can do to tackle unemployment. And these could…

The Strange form of “Disinvestment” C. P. Chandrasekhar

As the term of the current NDA government nears its end, with signs of popular dissatisfaction over its performance on the economic front, the urge to ramp up expenditure to woo the electorate intensifies. But a number of factors have combined to render that task difficult, with the failure of the government’s misplaced disinvestment programme being among the most important. Disinvestment receipts are crucial to the government this year for two reasons. First, while direct tax collections in 2018-9 are according to official figures on track to reaching targets, indirect tax collections have fallen short after implementation and periodic revision…

The mistaken obsession with the fiscal deficit C.P. Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh

It’s that time of year again – the time when all eyes turn to those magic numbers, the actual and proposed fiscal deficits of the central government as shares of GDP. Breathless news anchors will interrogate financial investors on what the numbers mean, and why 3.5 per cent or 3.7 per cent is fatally worse than, say, 3.4 per cent or 3.2 per cent or less. Everyone will breathe a sigh of relief if the Finance Minister achieves his fiscal targets, while there will be gloom, doom and concern if the government is found to have overstepped. All this scrutiny…

The failed promise of employment C. P. Chandrasekhar

As election 2019 approaches, the Modi government, damaged by agrarian distress, is also being challenged by evidence that its record on employment generation has been extremely poor. To recall, in its campaign during the 2014 election which brought it back to power, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) promised to create 10 million jobs every year. The best source of information on employment we currently have is the privately conducted (and heavily priced) Consumer Pyramids Household Survey undertaken by the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE). These figures are available from 2016 from a sample of more than 170,000…

A Misleading Debate Prabhat Patnaik

For some time now there has been a debate in the country that is as esoteric as it is misleading, namely whether the Reserve Bank of India’s reserves should be drawn down by the government to finance its expenditure. On the one side, the argument is that if the government has to undertake extra expenditure, then, other things remaining unchanged, it would increase the fiscal deficit, while financing expenditure by running down the RBI’s reserves entails no such increase in fiscal deficit; since an increase in fiscal deficit is supposed to be bad for the economy, it follows that financing…