Raghuram Rajan at it again, this time round on accuracy of GDP figures


The RBI governor Raghuram Rajan seems to forget that he is very much a hands on government servant. While it is all right for him to express disgust at industrialists living it off when their group companies are steeped in debt to the banking system, it is not at all kosher for him to express his critical views in a freewheeling manner on matters not impinging on the banking and financial sector that come under his surveillance.

Raghuram Rajan. PTI

Raghuram Rajan. PTI

GDP figures are compiled by another department of the GOI. Finance Secretary cannot go public with his views. For that matter defence secretary too cannot. Indeed no government servant can go public while still in service. To say that this gag order is anti-democratic and violative of freedom of expression is wrong. The gag order passes muster under article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution that says freedom of expression can be curbed in the interest of decency or morality among other things. A government servant may be bursting with bright ideas or criticism of his own employer but he must wait for his post-retirement life to give vent to them or if he cannot bide so much time, he must quit. Else, he must either have the ear of the concerned departmental head or slip in his suggestion down the suggestion box.


CAG is a constitutional office mandated to express fearless opinion on government accounting and finances. RBI guv is not cast in the mould of the CAG. To be sure, he can pull up erring banks. He can chide unputdownable and impulsive borrowers who play ducks and drakes with public money but he should not trespass into other areas not even as a citizen of the country so long as he is a government servant.

There is a view that he is a distinguished economist of impeccable pedigree that gives him the right to go public on any issue under the sun but that misses the woods for trees. If he cannot curb his impulse to speak out on issues not concerning him, he must quit and air his views without restraints on hindrances, breaking free of the government gag order on government servants.

Aamir Khan got the boot because he smugly assayed an act of ventriloquism in reverse —he put his own views in his wife’s mouth. He in his capacity as incredible India brand ambassador ought not to have badmouthed his own country as being intolerant. The Big B at least had the grace and decency to stop endorsing Pepsi cola when an epiphany in the form of a young Rajasthan school girl came and dinned into him that colas were poison. Rajan while not being government of India’s brand ambassador is nevertheless its important functionary and should not go to town with his perceived dissatisfactions on a range of issue in this day and age of instant dissemination across the length and breadth of the globe.

In any case, we don’t compile statistics the Chinese way that has gotten them the sobriquet Shanghai stats! Yes there are shortcomings in the way we compile economic statistics but they were never officially manipulated to present a rosier picture of the economy. And to extrapolate the overall economic position on the basis of exports as some critics are doing is stupid. Ours is not an export driven economy but led by the services sector which is still holding its own despite the world wide doom and gloom scenario on the back of the Chinese slump. But that would be going into the merits of statistics compilation whereas we are on the ethics of Rajan speaking out of turn. The Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) is cast partially in an evangelistic role that gives him some leeway in going to town.