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Monday, 5 January 2015

Meet NITI Aayog's 1st vice-chairman: Economist, music lover ..........

Economist Arvind Panagariya, Jagdish Bhagwati Professor of Indian Political Economy in the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, has been appointed as the vice-chairman of the recently formed NITI Aayog.
A doctorate degree holder in Economics from Princeton University, Panagariya has also served as the chief economist of the Asian Development Bank. He completed his graduation from Rajasthan University.
An author of 15 books, the professor has contributed columns to The Times of IndiaFinancial TimesWall Street Journal and India Today.A Padma Bhushan awardee, "Panagariya's scientific papers have appeared in the top economics journals such as theAmerican Economic Review and the Quarterly Journal of Economics while his policy papers have appeared in Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy", his biography on the Columbia SIPA website states.
In his long career, the 62-year-old Panagariya has remained part of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organisation, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in various capacities at different times. The renowned economist has also served at the Centre for International Economics and the University of Maryland at College Park.
Born to Balu Lal Panagriya and Mohan Kumari in Rajasthan on 30 September 1952, Panagariya was the third of three bothers. Despite the weak financial condition of his father, Panagariya was always fond of studies as a student. A sharp student, the young Jaipur-boy had to walk miles to attend classes at a Hindi-medium school. "Babu Lal wanted Arvind to take the competitive Indian Administrative Service examination after the son had got his first college degree. But Arvind did not fancy a government career."—a piece on rediff.com said.
The eminent economist still found it hard to believe that he was part of the Princeton, an Ivy League University which started after his admission to the institution in 1974. "When I was reviewing student applications at the University of Maryland, I told myself on several occasions if I were to send out the same application today, I would not be admitted even to a medium-standard school, let alone Princeton. I had done well in my studies in India, but then I had not gone to elite schools or colleges there. And who had heard of Rajasthan University here? So getting into Princeton was something I had never expected," the professor had toldrediff.com way back in February 2012.
An upright personality, Panagariya had openly disagreed with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on the latter's views on the Food Security Bill (now Act) in May 2013. "... I was taken aback when I heard Sen forcefully attribute a specific number of child deaths—1000 per week—to the lack of passage of the Food Security Bill on a TV debate the next day in which I appeared opposite him," Panagariya had told The Economic Times then.
There is little doubt that Panagariya is impressed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a column published in The Business Standard on 30 December last year, the professor had indicated that the prime minister is moving on the right path. "Unprecedented outreach by the prime minister has led to great enthusiasm about India among the major world powers as well as our neighbours. True to his word, Mr Modi has turned foreign policy into economic diplomacy, using his visits abroad to "sell" India as an investment destination."—Panagariya wrote in the Business Standard.
On 1 January, the government said that it was instituting NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India), as replacement for the Planning Commission "after extensive consultation across the spectrum of stakeholders, including state governments, domain experts and relevant institutions" to "provide a critical directional and strategic input into the development process". As the first vice-chairman of the NITI Aayog, Panagariya will have immense responsibilities to shoulder to give new directions to India's progress on the economic front.
The government in a release on 1 January said that "The NITI Aayog will create a knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurial support system through a collaborative community of national and international experts, practitioners and partners. It will offer a platform for resolution of inter-sectoral and inter-departmental issues in order to accelerate the implementation of the development agenda."
What notes Panagariya, who loves discussing old and new Hindi songs with his wife as mentioned by rediff.com, will play "to accelerate the implementation of the development agenda" will be interesting to watch in the future.