Suppressing criticism bad for govt: Raghuram Rajan

Last Updated 23 October 2019, 20:31 IST

The government in India would benefit from the advice of experts and therefore suppressing all criticism is ultimately bad for the government, Raghuram Rajan said on Wednesday.

Addressing an India Town Hall event at King's College London, the former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor was asked about the course ahead for the Indian economy amid the economic slowdown and growing unemployment.

"One of the problems, and I have said this very strongly, suppressing criticism means you don't hear feedback. And, if you don't hear the feedback, you can't course correct at the appropriate point of time," said Rajan.

"So, calling all the critics and saying please don't criticise the government, I think is bad for the government itself. It may feel good for everyone to praise you and say that you are the second coming of Christ, but that's not going to generate the kind of awareness you need within government itself," he said.

Rajan made reference to his own term at the helm of the Indian central bank as an example when he faced the "brunt" of private sector criticism, much of which he said proved "useful" for course correction.

"I would hope the government listens and sees what it needs to do. There are plenty of economists and wise people in India who can give advice. But it is important that the government take that advice and deliberate and act on it," he said, adding that it was also important for the strength of India's democracy to show up in the form of people speaking up against policies that don't work and in turn "energise" the government to change path.

Rajan reflected on his worry for the slowdown in the economy, which he said he hoped was cyclical but feared it may be more than that.

He said, "I worry a little about where we are going. On the economic front, India has certainly slowed considerably in the last three quarters. There is some hope that this is just a cyclical development, the world is slowing and we are also slowing.

"But I fear it's more than that. In India, investment has been slowing for a long time."

The Katherine Dusak Miller Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business was joined by telecom entrepreneur Sam Pitroda at the event organised by the National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

In reference to the topic of 'Perspective: Gandhi at 150', Rajan spoke in favour of the Gandhian philosophy of seeking answers through dialogue and the importance of decentralisation and broad-based growth.

The well-known economist and financial analyst said: "In the current environment, we have a government which has a particular way of governing in a much more centralised way… It is centralising in practical terms, in that a lot of decisions are made in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), but also in trying to reverse the decentralisation that was happening.

"The question to ask is, is this the right approach for India? My argument would be that from what experience we have had on the economic side, it doesn't work that well… because decision-making to some extent has become paralysed, despite the political power of this government."

Pitroda spoke of his own concerns about the lack of decentralisation of power as he reflected on how he "worries a lot about India today".

"Gandhi is even more relevant today than ever before, when the world is at a crossroads," he said, addressing the topic of the Town Hall, organised annually by NISAU UK to promote open dialogue around issues affecting India and Indians.

(Published 23 October 2019, 19:17 IST)

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