VER­BA­TIM

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Governance Now - - BRIEFINGS - Arvind Subra­ma­nian on his penul­ti­mate day in of­fice

“To­mor­row is my last day in of­fice as the chief eco­nomic ad­vi­sor (cea) to the gov­ern­ment of in­dia, a job of enor­mous re­spon­si­bil­ity, op­por­tu­nity, ex­cite­ment and of course, pres­tige. i must not in­dulge in re­flec­tion that risks turn­ing sen­ti­men­tal. i should prob­a­bly fol­low Ts eliot in ‘lit­tle gid­ding’: “I am not ea­ger to re­hearse My thoughts and the­ory which you have for­got­ten. Th­ese things have served their pur­pose: let them be.”

But i am not de­tached enough to do so. and the truth is that this is too poignant and fraught a mo­ment — leav­ing the best job i have ever had and prob­a­bly ever will — to not mark it with some re­flec­tion. Not as a ret­ro­spec­tive, self-in­dul­gent litany of my own achieve­ments and short­com­ings but on the role of the cea more gen­er­ally, with prospec­tive lessons for those who may come to oc­cupy it in fu­ture. ev­ery in­dian econ­o­mist who has even a shred of pol­icy pre­ten­sion as­pires to this job. some (many?) covet it fe­ro­ciously. i was lucky enough for my dream to be ful­filled, an in­ter­loper ap­pended to a lin­eage of il­lus­tri­ous­ness: from ig Pa­tel, VK ramaswami, Man­mo­han singh, ashok Mi­tra, Bi­mal Jalan, shankar acharya in the early years, to Kaushik Basu and raghu­ram ra­jan more re­cently. When I look at the board in my of­fice room in North Block — squeezed be­tween por­traits of Tagore, gandhi, and nehru — list­ing the names of my pre­de­ces­sors, i am re­minded of the Patek Philippe line ‘You never ac­tu­ally own a Patek Philippe. You merely look af­ter it for the next gen­er­a­tion.’ sim­i­larly, as the cea, i came to re­alise that i was merely the cus­to­dian of a sacred tra­di­tion and re­spon­si­ble for up­hold­ing it hon­ourably (and, at the same time, pet­ri­fied of de­bas­ing it).”

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