"Looking forward with excitement to table my first - and the new Government's first - Economic Survey in Parliament on Thursday (July 4, 2019)", Krishnamurthy Subramanian, chief economic advisor (CEA) of the government of India, tweeted on July 2 (Tuesday).
Subramanian's tweet has come after a break. He has not been active on twitter for some time now, and today's tweet explains why that has been so. The new CEA, appointed towards the fag end of the previous term of Modi government, has been working hard to bring out his first Economic Survey, the first one under the current term of the government.
That his imprint will be there on the Economic Survey - the annual report of Indian economy for the year gone by (2018-19) is given. The question is how different will be the document he presents on July 4, from what has been traditionally presented a day before the Union Budget in the past. First of all, there isn't much scope for creativity in an annual document that provides a compilation of numbers and statistics on how various segments of economy performed during the past year. Facts are facts, and one needs to present it in a format that is user-friendly.
Unless Subramanian strongly feels otherwise, there is no reason why one should tamper with the current structure of Economic Survey which is essentially a three-part document. The first one gives an overview and hence contains the opinion of the CEA (and not necessarily of the government) on the most important topics plaguing the Indian economy and the solutions that might fix the problems if any.
The second part is a predicable section as it merely culls data from various departments and ministries to put together, in one place, the vital statistics of Indian economy. There will be explanations, though it cannot alter the facts in any great manner.
The chapters on the state of the economy, fiscal development, monetary management, agriculture, exports, industry and infrastructure, services sector, social infrastructure, employment and human development will basically be a year-on-year update of what has happened over the 12 months of 2018-19.
The third part is going to be the most predictable one and exactly the same as the previous year as it is entirely a compilation of statistical data on national income and production, budgetary transactions, employment, monetary trends, prices (inflation), balance of trade, export-import trade, external assistance and human development indicators.
That leaves us with the first part, once again as it is the only section where CEA can give his views, and thus provide a forward-looking analysis of the issues that CEA considers important for the Indian economy.
So what are the issues that might get covered here?
Slowdown in economic growth, its causes, its magnitude and the ways to retrace the growth path, will definitely be covered in the first section. The CEA will also touch upon the major pain points - agriculture distress, slow down in private investments, employment generation, banking and non-banking-finance-company crisis, and talk about the importance of technology in finding cost-effective solutions to tackle each of these problems.
One should not be surprised if Subramanian gives concrete suggestions to incentive the growth of gazelles (those firms that are small but can grow to become giants) as these are the firms, which he believes can create a significant number of jobs.
There could be a section on rationalisation of wages at a national level as the CEA has been highly critical of the lack of minimum wages across states and across jobs in the country in the recent past.
Reforms in agriculture markets, and building infrastructure across the agriculture value chain has been his pet theme, and should find resonance in the Economic Survey.
Finally, the document could also offer some response to the criticism the Modi government has been facing in terms of economic policy interventions. The Economic Policy might find merit in the official GDP growth story, might not approve the theory, at least indirectly, suggested by the former CEA Arvind Subramanian, on India's doubtful macro-economic growth indicators.
In a nutshell, the Economic Survey, at least in the first part, will try to showcase Modi government's tryst towards strengthening its economic fundamentals and provide a justification for every economic disruption that has been attempted during the previous tenure of Modi government.