The alacrity with which the government named a new Reserve Bank governor may have been impressive enough to allay market sentiments, but the choice of a top retired bureaucrat to head the central bank leaves too much room for disappointment. Shaktikanta Das was a seasoned officer who was instrumental in carrying out many assignments for the government, including preparing Budgets as secretary, economic affairs. In question are not only his qualifications — an MA in history — which pale in comparison to the two distinguished economists who preceded him as the boss of Mint Street. Having been the go-to man for the government facing crises in coordinating with successive RBI governors with independent views, and named the pointperson in G-20 negotiations, he comes across as one who carries out the rulers’ bidding.
Both Raghuram Rajan and Urjit Patel were globally acclaimed, not because they were educated in the finest schools abroad but for the weight of their academic achievements. They were capable of analysing the economy and arriving at rate and money control decisions independently based on their knowledge rather than kowtowing to governments. There’s a fundamental difference between an economist and a bureaucrat heading the central bank. It’s less than fortunate that anyone taking a kindly view to the disastrous demonetisation move is seen as desirable in the current scenario. Those in power may demand an improvement in the economy, generation of jobs and assuaging of farmers in the few months left before the Lok Sabha elections. To do that, a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat would have been more qualified to head the RBI.