‘Greatest Challenge Since Independence’: Ex-RBI Guv on COVID

The former RBI governor said that in many places the government was ‘not present to help the people.’

2 min read
File image of former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan.

Former RBI governor and prominent economist Raghuram Rajan on Monday, 17 May, addressed a virtual event organised by the University of Chicago Center in Delhi, and said that the COVID-19 outbreak is probably India’s greatest challenge since Independence.

He said, “This is a tragic time in India given the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic is probably India’s greatest challenge since Independence,” PTI reported.

The ex-International Monetary Fund chief economist added that in many places the government was “not present to help the people.”

He said that initially, the challenge was primarily economic, however, presently, the challenge is both economic and personal.

“There will also be a social element to it as we go forward,” Rajan added.

Citing the Maharashtra administration’s management of the oxygen crisis, the economist noted that some levels of the government were not working.

“I do hope (that) as this pandemic passes, we recognise that there are situations where government breaks down. The pandemic has shown that we are all connected. No man is an island, no woman is an island,” he said, PTI quoted.

Rajan, who is now professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, said that governments need to adjust and course-correct, adding that enough people, including adminisitrative officials and civilians have to speak up. “Otherwise, we get a disaster,” he added.

According to Rajan, sometimes one needs to reform not by stealth but in full openness, adding that India needed an expeditious bankruptcy process for the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector.

Recalling his infamous IIT Delhi speech from 2015, which was seen as a sharp criticism of the Narendra Modi government at the time, Rajan said, “My IIT Delhi speech was not a criticism of the government.... Things get over-interpreted sometimes,” PTI reported.

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