NEW DELHI: The US-based economist Arvind Panagariya has been handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to be appointed Vice Chairman of the revamped Planning Commission, NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog. A formal announcement on this is likely soon.
The 62-year-old Panagariya name has been approved though. “The PM has cleared his name so the formal order for his appointment is likely to be issued next week,’’ a PMO official confirmed.
Panagariya’s name has been doing the rounds for a while now. Quite surprisingly, the first hint that he could be the functional head of the revamped Planning Commission came from Gandhinagar/Ahmedabad, Gujarat and not from the power circles of New Delhi. This was about two weeks ago.
Like the Deputy Chairman of the now disbanded Planning Commission, the NITI Aayog Vice Chairman will be given Cabinet rank. The new structure will also have a CEO in addition to four Cabinet ministers as ex-officio members, five full-time members and two part-time members on a rotational basis. It will also have Chief Ministers as members in what is to be a broad-based governing council that would involve states to develop national development priorities. But, like its former avatar, NITI Aayog too will be headed by the Prime Minister.
As per its terms of reference, the NITI Aayog will work towards fostering cooperative federalism, to develop mechanisms to formulate credible plans at the village level and to focus on technology upgradation, among other things.
As one of the unabashed backers of Modi and his development model, Panagariya is avowed supporter of free market economy and has been writing advisories to BJP on fiscal prudence and lowering of subsidies.
The choice of Panagariya is significant as he and his mentor economist Jagdish Bhagwati had taken a rather critical view of the subsidy-advocating economic development paradigm formulated by another noted Indian economist Amartya Sen, who had a deep influence on UPA’s right-based policy-making.
Panagariya’s latest book, ‘India: The Emerging Giant’, was described as definitive treatise on the Indian economy by Bhagwati. So by handpicking Panagariya, Modi is not making any random choice. He’s giving or trying to give the economy and economic policy making a different thrust, away from politics of welfarism towards market economy.
Earlier in the day, a senior BJP Minister had indicated that the Prime Minister would like to attract and work with ‘politically neutral’’ experts for the NITI Aayog and not necessarily Sangh ideologues. That re-orienting the economy is serious business.