From the Viewsroom

From the Viewsroom: Open your mouth. No papa

NS Vageesh | Updated on January 11, 2018

Arvind Subramanian

Honesty is not the best policy as far as the banking sector goes

Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian’s plea for greater intellectual honesty and frank feedback from bankers, economists, academics and other stakeholders is likely to fall on deaf ears. PR firms don’t have to go into panic mode, fearful that their clients may take the CEA too seriously and start chattering. Not a chance.

The last banker to stand up to the powers that be was RK Talwar, celebrated chairman of the SBI in the early seventies. He was swiftly banished. Bankers have long memories. Their independence of mind ended then. For proof just look at the statements given by bankers after every budget and every monetary policy announcement for the last decade. A weekly magazine once undertook that cheeky exercise and found to no one’s horror that the statements were all alike in tone and content — anodyne comments and fawning praise for the wisdom of the finance minister, or RBI governor, whoever it was — even when it was patently clear that their actions had the potential to run the economy aground. This, from heads of private banks who are theoretically independent and don’t owe their existence to the pleasure of a joint secretary or some other babu prowling North Block. If these private bank heads choose to be politically correct all the time, public sector bankers can certainly be forgiven if they choose discretion over valour.

Actually it is ironical that Subramanian should even raise the topic — considering what his friend Raghuram Rajan went through when he spoke his mind barely a year ago. When he made general comments about the economy or about the polity that were open to interpretation, the Government, its ministers, and a range of defenders came rushing to attack him, questioning his right to speak, his patriotism, his loyalties and whatnot. And he didn’t get a second term. Still want to speak out, anybody?

NS Vageesh Associate Editor

Published on May 14, 2017

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