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Ideas for India | Arvind Subramanian

Arvind Subramanian
Ministry of Finance, Government of India
cea@nic.in
Arvind Subramanian is Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, Government of India. Prior to this, he was a senior fellow jointly at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the Center for Global Development. His book Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China's Economic Dominance was published in September 2011 to wide acclaim. His book India's Turn: Understanding the Economic Transformation was published in 2008 by Oxford University Press. Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the world's top 100 global thinkers in 2011. India Today magazine named him one of India’s top 35 “Masters of the Mind” over the last 35 years. He was assistant director in the Research Department of the International Monetary Fund. He served at the GATT (1988–1992) during the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations, and taught at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government (1999–2000) and at Johns Hopkins' School for Advanced International Studies (2008–10). He has published widely in academic and other journals, including the American Economic Review (Papers and Proceedings), Review of Economics and Statistics, Journal of International Economics, Journal of Monetary Economics, Journal of Public Economics, Journal of Economic Growth, Journal of Development Economics, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, International Monetary Fund Staff Papers, Foreign Affairs, World Economy, and Economic and Political Weekly. He is currently ranked among the top 2 percent of the world’s academic economists in terms of citations of academic research, according to the widely used REPEC rankings. He contributes frequently to the Financial Times and is a columnist for India's leading financial daily, Business Standard. He has also published or been cited in leading magazines and newspapers, including the Economist, Financial Times, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and New York Review of Books.

He also advises the Indian government in different capacities, including as a member of the Finance Minister's Expert Group on the G-20.

Articles By Arvind Subramanian
Coal and the climate change debate
Posted On: 03 Dec 2015

Topics:   Environment

In the run-up to the Paris Climate Summit, there has been a growing call among advanced nations to phase out fossil fuels. In this article, Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Adviser, Government of India, argues that shunning coal is not viable for India. Instead, the world should come together to find effective techniques to ‘clean and green’ coal.

E. Somanathan, Executive Director, South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics, contends that it makes no economic sense to make further investments in coal, and that public policy should now be focused on renewable sources of energy.

Milind Kandlikar, Professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia, says that he is also not in favour of investing in coal, but is less optimistic about solar power in India in the medium term due to issues of grid integration and land requirements.

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India’s monetary policy in unusual times, uncharted waters
Posted On: 26 Aug 2015


There is a lot of discussion of the right course of monetary policy for India. In this article, India’s Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian argues that the country’s real policy interest rates have diverged significantly for consumers and producers, and are unusually high for the latter. There is a clear need for more consideration of the appropriate measure of restrictiveness in these unusual times.
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Charting a course for the Indian economy
Posted On: 05 Aug 2015


Karthik Muralidharan (Associate Professor of Economics, University of California, San Diego) speaks with Arvind Subramanian (Chief Economic Adviser, Government of India) on a broad set of issues ranging from the uniqueness of the Indian development model, the political economy of reforms, reducing factor misallocation in the economy, enhancing State capacity, financing India´s infrastructure needs, to the implications of the Fourteenth Finance Commission, improving the design of social welfare programmes, and climate change.

This is the third in the series of I4I Conversations.

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Land-shackled - II
Posted On: 22 Oct 2014

Topics:   Land

Rising land scarcity and land market distortions are increasingly becoming a binding constraint on development in India. In their previous article, Kapur, Somanathan and Subramanian diagnosed India’s land problem. In this part, they propose policy reforms for addressing the problem and ensuring that land facilitates rather than impedes development.
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Land-shackled
Posted On: 17 Oct 2014

Topics:   Land

Rising land scarcity and land market distortions are increasingly becoming a binding constraint on development in India. In the first of a two-part series, Kapur, Somanathan and Subramanian diagnose India’s land problem. In the next part, they propose policy reforms for addressing the problem and ensuring that land facilitates rather than impedes development.
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Is the rupee fairly valued?
Posted On: 27 Aug 2014


Is the rupee fairly valued, and should the RBI allow it to appreciate beyond its current rate? This column analyses new World Bank data and finds that the rupee is persistently undervalued by 30% or more. Given the undervaluation, it is puzzling to note that India runs large, structural current account deficits.
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India’s WTO problem: A proposal
Posted On: 31 Jul 2014

Topics:   Trade , Agriculture

India is threatening to block the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement unless its agricultural policies are exempted from multilateral scrutiny. This article contends that while India’s objectives on agriculture are valid, its tactics in withholding support for TFA are perhaps less so. India should withdraw its opposition, reformulate its position on agriculture to persuade others of its merits, and revisit the WTO issue in the near future.
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Modi’s first Budget for India: Disappointing but retrievable
Posted On: 15 Jul 2014


In this article, Arvind Subramanian contends that while Modi’s first Budget was good on vision, it fell short in terms of fiscal adjustment, budgetary transparency and credibility, and specificity and timelines on important policy actions. In his view, these shortcomings are remediable over time as the government forges the required political deals and improves administrative capacity to implement difficult policy actions.
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The Jaitley Budget: Planning for crisis
Posted On: 23 Jun 2014


El Nino can potentially derail the best-laid plans of the new government in India. The article contends that the finance minister would do well to plan his first Budget by attaching a reasonable probability to a food crisis this year. The Budget will need to be as much about creating a basis for successful crisis action later in the year as about launching epochal reforms now.
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Reversing premature de-industrialisation in India
Posted On: 26 May 2014


In countries across the world, de-industrialisation is taking place earlier in the development process. This column analyses how India fares in this regard. It finds that for most Indian states, the share of manufacturing in GDP peaked in the 90s, at levels far lower than comparable Asian countries, and began declining thereafter. Reversing this process is not going to be easy.
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An Indian trade paradox
Posted On: 09 Apr 2014

Topics:   Trade

India’s trading partners often complain about the restrictiveness of India’s trade regime. This column argues that they are both right and wrong. While India´s economy is ‘closed’ in terms of trade policy, it is ‘open’ in terms of trade outcomes. Tariff barriers in the services sector are among the highest in the world; but given its size, India trades more than a typical country does.
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Why taxing property is essential for local government accountability
Posted On: 03 Mar 2014


With rapid decentralisation and urbanisation, wealth is increasingly vested and locked up in land and property in India. In their previous article, Kapur and Subramanian emphasised the importance of direct taxes in ensuring citizen participation in holding the government accountable. In this part, they recommend that the 14th Finance Commission should promote tax decentralisation by incentivising state and local government to increase the property tax net.
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Taxation´s fatal neglect?
Posted On: 14 Feb 2014


Today, the public discourse on government finances in India is largely focused on spending. This article emphasises the importance of taxes, particularly income tax, in ensuring citizen participation in holding the government accountable. It shows that while economic growth in the past decade was faster than in preceding years, expansion of the direct tax net slowed down.
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Four Changes to trade rules to facilitate climate change action
Posted On: 24 Jan 2014

Topics:   Environment , Trade

Global climate cooperation has collapsed but the need for action has not disappeared. This column argues that only radical technological progress can reconcile climate-change goals with development. It argues that four changes in WTO trade rules could facilitate climate-change action and technological advances without unduly damaging trade.
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India´s unique crisis – a short term fix
Posted On: 20 Dec 2013


While the current turbulence in the Indian economy bears a resemblance to the situation of other emerging economies, it is unique when compared with historical experiences of economic crises. In their previous article, Kapur and Subramanian discussed the misdiagnosis of India’s crisis, and consequent errors in policy remedies. In this part, they outline short-term actions for reversing the growth slowdown, reducing current account deficit and preventing inflation.
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India´s unique crisis
Posted On: 16 Dec 2013


While the current turbulence in the Indian economy bears a resemblance to the situation of other emerging economies, it is unique when compared with historical experiences of economic crises. In the first of a two-part article, Kapur and Subramanian discuss the misdiagnoses of India’s crisis, and the consequent errors in policy remedies. In the next part, the authors provide a short-term solution for India’s unique crisis.
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The Reserve Bank´s mission impossible?
Posted On: 29 Nov 2013


India’s current inflation is unprecedentedly high – not in absolute terms but relative to the rest of the world. This article discusses the role of inflation in the recent currency crisis, and argues that taming inflation may prove difficult because the social consensus in favour of moderate inflation appears to have eroded.
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What saved the rupee?
Posted On: 06 Nov 2013


This article analyses the dramatic fall of the rupee between May and August this year, and its recovery thereafter. It asserts that it was primarily external factors and an unconventional intervention by the Reserve Bank of India that influenced the evolution of the rupee during the period.
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Underperforming even in good times
Posted On: 14 Jun 2013

Topics:   Economic Growth
Tags:   east Asia

The late Professor Raj Krishna´s term ‘Hindu growth rate’ was an aptly pejorative description of India´s economic performance in the post-independence period. But how has India performed in the good times, when the country´s growth turned around? This column compares India´s boom years with East Asia´s.
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India’s disputed ruling on pharmaceuticals and patents
Posted On: 10 Apr 2013


On April 1 2013, the Supreme Court of India rejected the attempt by Novartis, the Swiss pharmaceutical company, to patent a new version of the leukemia drug Glivec. The verdict follows previous rulings that granted compulsory licenses to an Indian generic drug manufacturer for a kidney cancer drug (Nexavar) patented by Bayer. This article discusses five important questions raised by these rulings.
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Why Nations Fail – And why India and China don’t fit the story
Posted On: 01 Feb 2013

Tags:   China

‘Why Nations Fail’ by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson is becoming a must-read for development economists. But this column argues that the central thesis of the book fails to explain two big development stories: those of India and China.
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US-China relations: Role reversal will slow climate change
Posted On: 23 Jan 2013

Topics:   Environment

This column proposes a new approach to climate change that involves China, and eventually other developing countries, offering inducements to the West to take steps to foster a private-sector led green technology revolution.
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Is economic growth always the best policy?
Posted On: 05 Oct 2012


Is economic growth the best way to reduce poverty, raise life expectancy, and improve people’s health? This column looks at different Indian states over the last 20 years. It argues that governments that pursue economic growth cannot be accused of neglecting their social aims.
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