ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Mouthpieces of Power

Sadly, some worthies in the economics profession have assumed the role of mouthpieces of power.

The severely constricted range of policy alternatives that the present government works with does not seem to dampen the fervour with which a number of economists engage with “policy issues”. Indeed, unlike in the times of the so-called licence-permit raj, some neoclassical theorists also seem to have pitched in as advisers to powerful politicians allied with those who control substantial blocs of capital. In partnership with these neoclassical worthies is the economist-as-engineer, the so-called professional manager whose job it is to rationalise operations and enhance the bottom line of the corporation. The two, the neoclassical economist and the economist-as-engineer, in alliance, have made for a formidable combination. Or, at least as long as the pro cess of governance is successfully isolated from popular control, a sort of “democratic elitism” allows the “expert” to prevail.

The Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government thought that the decision to invite the likes of Wal-Mart, Carrefour, Tesco and other transnational corporations (TNCs) to enter the Indian retail market in joint ventures with Indian firms, with the option of holding up to 51% of the equity capital in multibrand retail sales would not be challenged. After all, did not the earlier Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, with parties like the Trinamool Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in tow, now part of the UPA, favour such a course as part of its “India Shining” programme? Little did the Congress Party reckon that it would spark a political storm. Public opinion now had to be managed; the neoclassical policymaking economist in partnership with the economist-as-engineer had to be brought in to deal with the relentless opposition.

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