Manmohan Violet Singh

In a short recent speech, the Indian Prime Minister – the great man who steered the direction of the Indian economy in the early 1990s – says:

The purpose of the study of economics is not to provide settled answers to unsettled and difficult questions, but sometimes to warn economists and the world-at-large, how not to be misled by clever governments.

which is similar to what Joan Robinson once:

The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.

– in “Marx, Marshall And Keynes”Occasional Paper No. 9, The Delhi School of Economics, University Of Delhi, Delhi, 1955.

I’d say Manmohan Singh doesn’t go as far as Robinson in putting the blame on economists themselves but I guess there is some amount of influence. But what Singh says is true – governments of advanced nations mislead the less advanced ones.

Also in the short speech:

I would like to say, that when we study economics, our impulse is not the philosopher’s impulse – knowledge for the sake of knowledge – but for healing that that knowledge may help to bring. These are the words of past thinkers: Wonder is the beginning of philosophy; but it is not wonder, but social enthusiasm, which revolts against the silence of fixed life, and the orderliness of the mainstream, which is the beginning of economic science.

Which is not not surprising since Manmohan Singh is influenced by Joan Robinson and Nicholas Kaldor. Here is a nice interview by the BBC’s Mark Tully from 2005 Architect Of The New India published in the October 2005 issue of the Cambridge University Alumnus Magazine. 

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

The thinking behind his solutions to India’s financial problems was first shaped at Cambridge by the theories of John Maynard Keynes. The great man had died almost 10 years before Manmohan Singh arrived but his legacy was still very much alive. ‘At university I first became conscious of the creative role of politics in shaping human affairs, and I owe that mostly to my teachers, Joan Robinson and Nicholas Kaldor. Joan Robinson was a brilliant teacher but she also sought to awaken the inner conscience of her students in a manner that very few others were able to achieve. She questioned me a great deal, and made me think the unthinkable. She propounded the leftwing interpretation of Keynes, maintaining that the state has to play more of a role if you really want to combine development and social equity.’

‘Kaldor influenced me even more; I found him pragmatic, scintillating, stimulating. Joan Robinson was a great admirer of what was going on in China, but Kaldor used the Keynesian analysis to demonstrate that capitalism could be made to work. So I was exposed to two alternative schools of thought. I was very close to both teachers, so the clash of thinking sometimes got me into difficulties. But that made me think independently.’

In Other News

The Reserve Bank of India announced some measures recently to curb the instability of the Indian Rupee:

The first announcement – effectively raising short term interest rates and which caught everyone by surprise – was on 15 July 2013:

The market perception of likely tapering of US Quantitative Easing has triggered outflows of portfolio investment, particularly from the debt segment. Consequently, the Rupee has depreciated markedly in the last six weeks. Countries with large current account deficits, such as India, have been particularly affected despite their relatively promising economic fundamentals. The exchange rate pressure also evidences that the demand for foreign currency has increased vis-a-vis that of the Rupee in part because of the improving domestic liquidity situation.

Against this backdrop, and the need to restore stability to the foreign exchange market, the following measures are announced:

On 23 July it further tightened monetary policy:

Over the last two months, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has undertaken several measures to contain the volatility in the foreign exchange market. Among them, some measures intended to check excessive speculation adding to undue volatility in market conditions were instituted vide the RBI’s Press Release No.2013-2014/100 dated July 15, 2013. These measures have had a restraining effect on volatility with a concomitant stabilising effect on the exchange rate. Based on a review of the measures, and an assessment of the liquidity and overall market conditions going forward, it has been decided to modify the liquidity tightening measures as follows:

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