Amid speculation that he may be the finance minister if an opposition alliance wins the ensuing general elections, the former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has said he is willing to return to take an opportunity where he could be of use.
Rajan, a former Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund who was denied a second term as Reserve Bank Governor by the BJP-led government, said he is “very happy” where he is, but is open to opportunities.
“I am very happy where I am. But if there is an opportunity to be of use I will always be there,” he said at the launch of his new book ‘The Third Pillar’ on Tuesday evening.
Rajan, who is currently the Katherine Dusak Miller Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business in the US, was asked if he would like to return to India in public service or even a political role.
Speculation in political circles has been that he may be a choice for finance minister if the ‘Grand Alliance’ of opposition parties such as TMC, Samajwadi Party, BSP and TDP were to win the April/May general elections.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi had on Tuesday stated that Rajan was among top economists that his party had consulted to draft its minimum income guarantee scheme, Nyuntam Aay Yojana or NYAY.
The scheme assures up to Rs 72,000 a year or Rs 6,000 a month income to 20 per cent of India’s poorest families if the Congress is voted back to power in the Lok Sabha elections next month.
In an interview to CNBC TV18 Tuesday, Rajan said it was “premature” to discuss if he was approached by any of the parties to take up a policy-making position if they were to win.
“I think it is premature to have this discussion. I really think that this is an important election for India and I also think we need a new set of reforms. I would be happy to push those ideas and we are trying to do that more broadly to anybody who listens,” he had said.
Rajan, who is credited with taking some bold decisions on cleaning up of bank balance sheets as the RBI Governor, when asked what his priorities would be if he was the finance minister of the country, he said “I think there are short-term issues”.
“A number of economists, of which I was one, have put together a set of policy ideas and they are out there for anybody to read. They are coming out in a book but let me say very quickly that certainly, I would focus on short-term actions that could put a lot of projects back on track,” he said.
Also, cleaning up the banks as quickly as possible and set them back on credit growth, and finding two or three key reforms that could unleash growth would be his focus, he said.
“Certainly one of them has to be how we review agriculture in a way that reduces distress. Second would be the issue of land acquisition. Can we learn from the best practices of the states and find methods that seem fair and in a sense also give states the freedom to pick the method that works best for them so that we learn from each other’s experiments?
“Land acquisition and bank cleanup, as well as, trying to find some key policies that would revive agriculture – these would be top priorities,” he said.
Rajan was the 23rd Governor of the Reserve Bank of India between September 2013 and September 2016. Between 2003 and 2006, he was the Chief Economist and Director of Research at the IMF.