Make no mistake, Raghuram Rajan the RBI Governor Chief is a full Indian in his mind and soul. Rajan announced his decision to chuck out his mantle come September in an open letter to his staff. He is one of the few credible and remarkable men that the Government has sadly decided to let go.
The former IMF chief economist and academician at University of Chicago was appointed RBI Governor in 2013 and it was always an education to follow his speeches, full of insight aired on Indian TV channels. I was charmed by Governor Rajan demeanor and calm composure speaking on the issue of slashing interest rates. It was all about monetary policy and the economics of growth. The capitalists were putting pressure on him to slash rates so that they can make windfall gains. The role of a governor is not to bow to the whims and fancy of power toni but to assess what’s in the better interest of the people. Credit goes to him for making inflation his priority for the middle class are the ones who suffer lots of hardship with spiral in prices.
He was never one to be shy in criticizing the Government and perhaps, it rubbed them the wrong way for he was not toying to anyone’s tune, be it the Congress or BJP Government. Rajan always fizzed with energy be it his comments on the economy, tongue-in-cheek statements and went a long way in fixing things in currency markets, accessible banking and checking inflationary pressures. It was a very rooted and down-to-earth approach as Governor, something that very few dared to do.
It was towards the end of 2014 when Raghuram Rajan visited Mauritius where he had a session of work with his local counterpart. At that time, I was working as a Special Correspondent for an expat magazine that was soon to be launched. It was a lazy afternoon post lunch and was feeling sleepy. A colleague pinged on Gchat informing that Rajan will speak in a conference and she would be leaving in another hour. It stirred me up. After all, it’s an opportunity to bag an interview with one of the personalities that I admire and respect the most, whom I believe would shape the Indian economy. And, he did. I jotted few questions and did research in a jiffy on Governor.
Must say I was awed to see the man in flesh speaking and diligently explained how the market forces can unsettle the economy and how the Central Bank should play a part. Being an Economics graduate, the Governor’s words made total sense to me. It was question time and had no choice but to compress my questions set since the Governor was on a tight schedule and would not be in a position to give a full-fledged interview. I raised my hand and flouted the question, standing face to face, introducing myself to the Economics wizard. It was an emotional moment and naturally, I choked, stuttered and the voice pitch wobbled.
Here, the transcript of our Q& A that was reproduced by a wonderful colleague from another local publication at that time and former HT reporter, Nishika. The learned colleague compiled all the answers given by Rajan and it speaks a lot about her honesty as a journo.
ME: On a light note, when you took over as RBI governor, columnist Shobhaa De called you one of the most handsome men to get India on the growth path. Linking this to the statement made by David Cameron that a second crash is looming, what according to you can be done to prevent this crash from occurring?
Raghuram Rajan: Look, we can all see the weaknesses in the global economy. The key to my mind in preventing the weakness from persisting and getting worse is for every country to figure out the reforms it needs to do. In the short run, some of these structural reforms are very painful and don’t pay off immediately. But, one lesson in economics is that if you do the right things, it will eventually pay off in a big way. So, I would argue that the response to David Cameron’s concerns is that countries must do reforms – increasing productivity, bringing more people into the marketplace, easing access for those people to get into the marketplace and increasing capabilities of people who are left behind though education, healthcare, etc — all of these can work together to make the world more productive. There are no easy ways to growth – that is the one key message we must take away.
It was one of the best explanation by someone whom another favorite of mine Shobha De called as the ‘Poster boy of Banking.’ This is what makes me an admirer of Raghuram Rajan, whether it’s his lucidity and insight on how reforms and economics work. I would just hope that people like Swamy who has a foot in his mouth would stop with the ludicrous mudslinging one of the most brilliant economic minds on the global scale. Sad we couldn’t retain him as India’s RBI Governor for a second mandate. Writing his obituary or not by dim wits, Raghuram Rajan has laid the foundation and carved a mark on the Indian economy and RBI, refusing to be cowed down by moronic politics and ugly capitalists.
Post script: The report-cum-interview went unpublished since the first edition of the publication came very late due to technicalities. Thinking to share in another blog post.