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Kaushik Basu tipped for CEA's post

Aditi Phadnis  |  New Delhi 

Kaushik Basu

Kaushik Basu, the C Marks Professor of International Studies, professor of economics, and director of the Center for Analytic Economics at Cornell, has been asked informally if he would consider becoming Chief Economic Advisor (CEA), a post that will fall vacant after Arvind Virmani ends his tenure and leaves to join the International Monetary Fund at the end of the month.

“I have been asked informally (to become CEA) but do not have anything formal in hand as yet,” he said in reply to an email query on 14 September.

The CEA holds the rank of a Secretary to the Government of India. He heads the Economic Division in the finance ministry and offers directions of an advisory nature.

The division he heads examines trends in economy and conducts techno-economic studies that go into economic policy formulation. It also keeps a close watch on economic developments both internal and external.

* Manmohan Singh
* Bimal Jalan
* Nitin Desai
* Deepak Nayyar
* Shankar Acharya
* Rakesh Mohan
* Ashok Lahiri
* Arvind Virmani

Basu was honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 2008. He was a columnist with Business Standard for several years.

Among many of his published works, he has edited the Oxford Companion to Economics in India, which was released by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi in February 2007.

“The compendium includes 198 authors and 204 entries and, according to one reviewer, weighs 5 kilograms, but Basu puts in the disclaimer that he has not weighed it himself”, the Cornell Chronicle noted.

In June last year, when inflation was at its peak and economists sounded dire warning about a precipitous dip in India’s growth rate, Basu said in a newspaper article that if a poor country like India could “put its house in order and be pro-active in the global market, it can be a critical player in helping corporations cut costs. At the same time it would improve its own economic prospects”. He concluded: “Expect some belt tightening, but don't expect the trousers to fall down”.

Basu is a colleague and friend of Manmohan Singh from the early 1980s, when Basu taught economics in Delhi and Singh was between jobs — retired as secretary in the department of economic affairs and yet to become governor of the Reserve Bank.

“A friend of mine called to ask if he could bring Manmohan Singh — I knew of him as an economist and he was already prominent as a policy technocrat — to take a look at our flat. He was looking to buy ‘a simple apartment’, my friend explained. I subsequently got to know Manmohan Singh well enough to know that that would indeed be his preference,” said Basu in an article for the BBC, in which he noted Singh’s contribution to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s victory in 2009 general elections

Basu was born in Calcutta and schooled at St Xavier’s. In 1969, he moved to Delhi to do his undergraduate studies in Economics from St Stephen’s College and then to the London School of Economics, from where he got his MSc in Economics in 1974.

Over the years, he has held positions at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), CORE (Louvain-la-Neuve) and the London School of Economics (where he was Distinguished Visitor in 1993); he has been visiting professor at MIT, Harvard and Princeton; and visiting scientist at the Indian Statistical Institute.

First Published: Thu, September 17 2009. 00:11 IST