Kochi: Finance Minister Thomas Isaac’s attempt to sidestep the deeper issue of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan appointing Gita Gopinath, a supporter of neo-liberal economics, as his advisor, has triggered a fresh round of debate on the social media. Questions have been raised over the explanation given by Dr. Isaac in the Assembly on Wednesday justifying the appointment as a matter of ‘specialisation’ in different fields of economics. Objecting to the formulation of Dr. Isaac, Dr. K.T. Rammohan, former dean of the School of Social Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University, stated: “Students of economics recognize that political economy and neo-classical economy are contending schools of economic thought. Glossing over the differences as a question of specialisation is not right. One can understand the Fin Min's obligation to defend his party and government, but regrettably, his manner of defence is a disservice to the discipline,” he said in a Facebook post.
Dr. Rammohan pointed out that the late Prof Krishna Bharadwaj of the JNU had termed this as a “great divide in economic theorising.” The divide was owing to the differences in perspective, concerns, questions and method of the two schools, the post said. “Given this, it is surprising that Kerala's Fin Min seeks to gloss over this by noting that what marks him (Isaac) off from the newly-appointed economics expert (a former advisor to the IMF) to the CM, is merely differing specialisation within the discipline”.
The post concluded: “It is not that the Fin Min does not know that there is a political economy perspective regarding international trade too and the economics expert does not share it. His argument on the need for expertise is well-taken but equally, students of political economy know that expertise is also socially embedded.” Responding to the post, Dr. Raman Kutty, professor at Sreechitra Thirunal Institute of Medical Sciences, Thiruvananthapuram, commented that the “political economy perspective may help one understand the deeper meaning of things. But for a CM grappling with day-to-day running of his administration, an apolitical technocrat with hands-on skills might be a greater help”.
To this, Dr. Rammohan said that the need was for the ‘red experts,’ broadly defined as experts with a socialist orientation. This was seen in successive left-front governments inviting Gulati, Rudra and Raj (none, exactly red but left-liberal and certainly not right-wing) to render advice on Kerala's economic affairs/participate in building centres of economics learning in the state, he said....