Computer outages Jayati Ghosh

It is a truth that should now be universally acknowledged that, everywhere in the world, our lives are driven by computers – or more specifically, by the workings of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and therefore the internet. And our dependence on them is not just temporary or partial: it is continuous and overwhelming. It is not just people who actively use computers – whether on desktops or laptops or tablets or mobile telephones – whose lives are driven by them and by internet access. Increasingly, (and certainly in urban areas) almost all forms of transport, most forms of financial…

Development for Whom? Jayati Ghosh

Calls for a new development paradigm grow louder each day, especially in rapidly growing countries like India. Award-winning development economist Jayati Ghosh explores prospects for such a new model of equitable and sustainable development with Allen White, Senior Fellow at the Tellus Institute. What drew you to the field of development economics? I was interested in how societies function and how social change occurs, so I began by studying sociology. But it seemed that this discipline just skimmed the surface, that deeper underlying economic contexts and processes were crucial for understanding social change, and that without such knowledge, much would…

Brexit and the Economics of Political Change in Developed Countries Jayati Ghosh

The economic forces underlying Brexit—and the election of Donald Trump in the US—are similar, but also well advanced in many European countries, where much of the population faces similar material insecurity and stagnation. These frustrations can easily be channelled by right-wing xenophobic forces. To combat this, the EU needs to undo some of its design flaws and move from austerity to a more flexible union based on the solidarity of its people. Brexit (Download the full text in PDF format) ( This article was originally posted in the Taylor and Francis online on June 2, 2017.)

One Belt, One Road, One grand design? Jayati Ghosh

It is a truism of history that rising powers tend to be the ones valorising “free” trade and more open and integrated national economies, just as waning powers tend to turn inwards. So it is no surprise that over the past half year, as the United States elected a President with an avowedly protectionist agenda (even if relatively little has been acted upon so far), China’s President has become the chief advocate of globalisation and more extensive trade and investment links across countries. This drumbeat reached a crescendo in mid-May 2017, at a summit in Beijing to celebrate the official…

The GDP elephant Jayati Ghosh

National income is hard to estimate in India where so much activity and employment is in the informal sector. Much of GDP calculation is not purely “technocratic” but relies on judgments and assumptions. As long as our system of national accounting does not clarify the real impact on the economy and the actual degree of deceleration of economic activity, we will remain in the dark. GDP_Elephant (Download the full text in PDF format) This article was originally published in Quatrz India: June 5, 2017.

Lopsided industrialisation C. P. Chandrasekhar & Jayati Ghosh

Recent trends in the organisational form of units in the registered manufacturing sector suggest that India’s factory sector is not just abnormal but backward to boot. Lopsided_Industrialisation  (Download the full text in PDF format) This article was originally posted in the Business Line on May 8, 2017.

The Persistence of Child Marriage Jayati Ghosh

It is commonplace to note that women tend to have low status and little autonomy over much of Indian society. This is reflected in many distressing features that have persisted and even intensified in recent years despite all the talk of modernisation: the low and falling rates of female participation in recognised employment; adverse child sex ratios that appear to be even worse among more well-off groups; increases in recorded cases of violence against women. But there is one very startling feature that gets relatively little attention: the continuing prevalence of child marriage across most parts of the country. According…

The Consequences of Legal Impunity Jayati Ghosh

There are many reasons to worry about and to be anguished by the communalisation of Indian politics and society that has proceeded apace over the last few decades. There is the general coarsening of the public discourse, which increasingly gets driven by prejudice and rumour rather than fact. There is the increase in both subtle and open forms of discrimination, typically directed by members of the majority community against the minority community, but often expressed against the “other” whenever that person or group is perceived as being weaker. There is the hardening of positions within communities, with hard-line stances in…

Words and Music in the Romantic Imagination Jayati Ghosh

What makes for a “Romantic” sensibility? Not in the literal sense of being inclined to “romance”, but in the sense of the movement that subsequently became a tradition in 19th century literature and the arts in Europe, when this sensibility permeated much creative endeavour. Romanticism has generally been associated with an emphasis on emotion and a celebration of subjectivity in terms of the individual’s response to the world; a glorification of nature, as well as of the past; in many ways a cultural expression of the reaction to the standardisation and rule-bound socio-economic patterns created by the Industrial Revolution. But…

Quarterly GDP Estimates: Curiouser and curiouser Jayati Ghosh

So maybe the demonetisation never really happened. Maybe it was all a bad dream: the late evening announcement, the subsequent cash crunch, the regulatory chaos, the deaths because people could not get medical treatment with old notes. Maybe the reporters who described all the job losses and migrant workers forced to go back home and farmers unable to get their sowing done in time and so on were all affected by a mirage. Maybe those who conducted surveys and found massive drops in sales, in consumer spending, in livelihoods of informal workers and self-employed people were similarly deluded. And of…

Budget 2017-18: Social spending Jayati Ghosh

The Modi government over the past three years has not been noted for its generosity towards the social sector and spending to meet goals of improving human development. Indeed, if the past were any guide, there would be little reason to expect much increase in social sector budgetary outlays on the part of the central government. However, this year, for various reasons, analysts were led to expect that there would be at least some change from the fiscal disdain the government has shown in the past to this area. After all, the failed demonetisation has severely dented living standards of…

A Universal Basic Income in India? Jayati Ghosh

There is a lot of buzz globally around the idea of a Universal Basic Income (or UBI). It is perceived as one way of coping with technology-induced unemployment that is projected to grow significantly in the near future, as well as reducing inequalities and increasing consumption demand in stagnant economies. Certainly there is much to be said for the idea, especially if it is to be achieved by taxing the rich and particularly those activities that are either socially less desirable or are generating larger surpluses because of technological changes. Indeed, that is precisely the proposal of the French Socialist…

A Disappointingly Ordinary Budget for Extraordinary Times Jayati Ghosh

The most striking thing about Arun Jaitley’s budget presentation for 2017-18 is just how unstriking it is. A lot of was expected from this Budget, and it is largely the Government’s own fault that the expectations were so many and so contradictory. In the event, the Finance Minister has presented a very “ordinary” Budget, which is unlikely to satisfy most people who recognise that these are definitely not “ordinary” economic times. First, this Budget comes directly in the wake of demonetisation followed by painfully slow and inadequate remonetisation, which has dealt a body blow to the informal sector as well…

Budget 2017 must Support those Worst Hit by Demonetisation Jayati Ghosh

How to mitigate and reverse the adverse impact of the demonetisation ought to be at the top of the Finance Minister’s agenda for the coming Budget. The effects of the ill-considered and even more poorly implemented scheme are still being felt across the country, in the form of reduced economic activity, job losses and reductions in income and consumption. Since remonetisation is still incomplete – and the government has already threatened not to replace the full value of the demonetised currency in a coercive push to digitisation – the impact on economic activity from that one source alone will continue…

Will We Miss the Budget Opportunity? Jayati Ghosh

This year’s Budget would never have been easy to present, with the economic uncertainty swirling around the globe and the demonetisation-induced domestic downturn still ongoing in the Indian economy. But the Modi government seems to be determined to make its own task harder. It has managed to generate expectations that will almost inevitably be unfulfilled, through a weird combination of denial of the manifold ill-effects of demonetisation, encouragement of all sorts of ideas around the universal basic income, and simultaneous acceptance of relatively rigid fiscal targets. But consider first the very timing of the Budget announcement, in the context of…

Buckling under Pressure Jayati Ghosh

Is there no one left in our important institutions who is still capable of speaking truth to power? The last year has seen a depressing – even frightening – erosion in the credibility of the major institutions that in different ways are vital for the functioning of our democracy. It is true that the Congress Party when in power has also not covered itself in glory in terms of respecting such institutions, except when forced to do so. But the current “low, dishonest” phase of history (in W.H. Auden’s apt phrase) that we are experiencing in India surely marks a…

Digital Dreams Jayati Ghosh

“Plastic is the new khadi” is the currently popular saying transmitted across social media.  As Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government continuously shift the goal posts of the extraordinarily violent demonetisation move, it turns out that the fruit of all the trauma that the majority of the Indian population is going through will be – to become a cashless society! The exhortation to move to e-payments has become the basis for the new definition of nationalism: the ability to pay for something with a card or a mobile phone or internet account is now the real proof of your…

Money and the Social Contract in India Jayati Ghosh

The social contract between a state and its citizens is a complex thing. Philosophers of the European “Enlightenment” saw it as the basis on which society is organised so as to ensure the mutual protection and welfare of its members. It is therefore the implicit social arrangement whereby citizens give up some of their rights and freedoms to the state or a similar authority, in return for some degree of order and stability that would effectively ensure the protection of their remaining rights and freedoms. In very unequal societies, the voluntary nature of such a social contract is not particularly…

Demonetisation was Primarily a Political Act Jayati Ghosh

Two weeks into the surprise announcement of by Prime Minister Modi of the demonetisation of “high value” notes, it is becoming more evident by the day that the primary purpose was political rather than economic, and that this political purpose was specifically directed towards ensuring the fortunes of the ruling party vis-à-vis its rivals. Nothing else can explain the abrupt nature of the announcement or the subsequent manner of its implementation, which has been so apparently insensitive to the specific needs of so much of India’s working population. While a lot of the criticism of this scheme has focussed on…

The Political Economy of Demonetising High Value Notes Jayati Ghosh

The Modi government is extremely adept at optics, at policy measures presented in a blaze of publicity that dazzles the public, rather than with the required attention to detail that might ensure their success. The latest announcement of the demonetisation of high value bank notes is of the “shock and awe” variety of measures. While presented as evidence of the government’s supposedly firm resolve to root out black money, in reality it will barely touch the problem of generation of black money, even as it is being implemented in a way that causes immense economic harm to ordinary people and…

Colombia: The search for elusive peace Jayati Ghosh

They march in tens of thousands, every Wednesday, through the streets of central Bogota: young and old; students and teachers; well-paid professionals, trade unionists and informal workers; healthy and disabled; urban and rural residents; family members and friends of the countless numbers who have been killed or maimed or have simply disappeared during this apparently endless war. They march for peace, and for a renewed attempt to find an agreement to settle the decades-old war between named and unnamed protagonists. Ever since the peace agreement painfully negotiated between FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the government was rejected…

Understanding the American Right Jayati Ghosh

A visit to the USA at the height of the Presidential election season, in a nation obsessed with polls that are just a few weeks away, creates simultaneous sensations of fascination, dismay and even horror. Even from a distance, the entire world has been watching this hugely significant election turn into an ever more sordid and distressing spectacle, with vitriolic lows in the campaign discussion that are perhaps unparalleled in any other election through time and across countries. The personal failings of both candidates are now only too well known, and are effectively blocking out all serious consideration of the…

Who’s Afraid of the Fiscal Deficit? Jayati Ghosh

The ongoing review of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act 2003, by a Committee set up by the central government, has once again brought to the fore the vexed question of whether limits should be set by law to the government’s fiscal practices. More particularly, the issue being considered is whether the rigid fiscal deficit and current deficit targets set by the FRBMA are either meaningful or desirable in the contemporary economic environment. There are many reasons to be willing to reconsider the FRBMA. While strict rules for limits on public debt and the fiscal deficit (either in absolute…

Too Many Years of Living Dangerously: The UNCTAD Trade and Development Report 2016 Jayati Ghosh

For many years now, the Trade and Development Reports produced by UNCTAD have been providing a voice of sanity in a global discourse on the world economy that has often appeared to be dominated by denial and irrelevance. The Report has also often proved to be remarkably prescient, for example by anticipating as early as 2006 the likely collapse of financial markets that occurred in 2008, or by pointing in the past few years to the futility of excessive reliance on monetary policies alone to lift economic growth, which policy makers are only beginning to come to grips with at…

Recognising Different Skills and their Uses Jayati Ghosh

Skill development and training are two terms that are greatly beloved of policy makers – and indeed of analysts in general – as they seem to present easy solutions to so many labour market concerns. It is commonplace in India, for example, to hear that our economic growth is constrained by the lack of skills among the bulk of our workers, and that skill development is therefore not only a policy priority but also a relatively easy, inexpensive and painless way to ensure employment growth, especially in formal activities. It is seen as the proverbial low-hanging fruit for governments to…

Recent growth in the Indian economy Jayati Ghosh

What does one make of the Indian economy? It is now declared to be the fastest growing in the world, “the one bright spot in an otherwise gloomy world economy” according to IMF Chief Christine Lagarde, apparently on course to “become a key engine of global growth”. There is no doubt that the economic potential of India is huge: now with more than 1.2 billion people, with hundreds of millions of people with middle class aspirations who will constitute a huge and growing market. Over the decades the economy has diversified to some extent, even if the share of manufacturing…

India and Indians at Seventy Plus Jayati Ghosh

For the majority of Indians aged 70 or more, their sheer survival may be the most positive aspect of their lives since the state, instead of taking any measures of social protection, puts the burden of their care on families without considering their economic situation. indians_seventy_plus (Download the full text in PDF format) (This article was originally published in the Frontline, Print edition: September 2, 2016)  

The Economics of Political Change in Developed Countries Jayati Ghosh

Across the world, people have been watching recent political changes in developed countries with a mixture of bemusement and shock. From the recent anointment of Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for US President, to the rise and spread of blatantly racist anti-immigration political parties and movements in Europe, it is clear that there are tectonic shifts under way in the political discourse and practice in these countries. As these changes have gone from the unthinkable to the depressingly predictable, there are increasingly desperate attempts to understand what is driving them. This is especially the case because – despite all…

25 Years of Economic Reforms: Agriculture Jayati Ghosh

In the fateful month of July 1991 when the devaluation of the Indian rupee presaged the introduction of a whole series of liberalising economic reforms, agriculture was very far from the minds of most policy makers and commentators. The immediate focus was on the balance of payments, and thereafter on industry and other sectors (like the “modern” services”). Indeed, subsequent policy measures, oriented towards trade and foreign investment liberalisation and deregulation of domestic industry and then finance, tended to reinforce the emphasis that was being put on non-agricultural sectors as the means to both faster economic growth and development in…

Broken promises to India’s youth Jayati Ghosh

Two years ago, when Narendra Modi led the BJP to a huge victory in the general elections, there was little doubt that the youth of India, and especially those in the Hindi heartland, had played a significant role in this victory. In his election speeches, Mr Modi particularly addressed the aspirational young, promising them jobs and “development” rather than “welfare” and offering the hope of a new galvanising energy in place of the tired and apparently directionless government that the UPA regime in its final stages seemed to have become. In many parts of the country, young voters – many…

Musical Expressions Jayati Ghosh

For many listeners, the string quartet provides at once the most intimate and the most expansive of musical possibilities. The combination of two violins, a viola and a cello playing together was first developed and then nearly perfected by Joseph Haydn in 18th century Austria. Since then its popularity has never waned, and it has remained an important vehicle for musical expression even for composers in the 21st century. Because it requires musicians to play together and listen together, it creates bonds that can almost be palpably felt by listeners. So there is something about these four string voices heard…