Each year, a day before the presentation of the full-fledged annual Union Budget, the country Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) releases the Economic Survey. This year’s edition will be presented on July 4 and it would be the first one to be presented under the leadership of the new CEA Krishnamurthy Subramanian. However, notwithstanding the close proximity of its release with the Union Budget, the Economic Survey is not exactly a predictor of the Budget proposals. Still, it is a very important document because it provides an authoritative, detailed and official annual summary of the current state of play in the Indian economy.
In fact, beyond the summary, the Economic Survey also paints a variety of future scenarios, highlighting likely challenges and pointing to possible solutions. In the past few years, the Economic Survey has been presented in two volumes. For example, in the last year’s Survey, which was the last one presented by the then CEA Arvind Subramanian, Volume 2 provided the more descriptive review of the fiscal year, encompassing all the major sectors of the economy, while Volume 1 focussed on research and analysis about the challenges — both contemporary and long-term — facing the Indian economy. Thus, Volume 1 contained chapters on the GST, the investment-saving slowdown, and fiscal federalism and accountability, as well as on the challenges of long-term economic convergence, gender inequality, climate change and agriculture, delays in the appeals and judicial process, and science and technology.
As such, apart from providing a comprehensive snapshot of the various sectors of the economy, the Survey is also used as a sounding board for introducing new policy ideas and triggering fresh debates. As the years have rolled by, successive CEAs have used every aspect of the Economic Survey to convey some key idea. For instance, the colour of the 2018 Survey’s cover — pink — was chosen “as a symbol of support for the growing movement to end violence against women, which spans continents”.
Given that the Indian economy is going through a rough patch, this year’s Economic Survey will be keenly watched for a new bunch of big ideas under the new CEA.