The Niti Aayog held a meeting with senior economists on Thursday to discuss the reforms agenda for the next government at the Centre. Since the meeting was held after the Election Commission announced a model code of conduct in the run-up to the general elections due from 11 April, no government press release will be issued on this.
Economists who attended the meeting were asked not to discuss the details of the meeting. Both the BJP and the Congress are expected to release their election manifestos soon.
The key theme of the meeting was sustainable and inclusive development. Expectedly, the issues revolved around the theme of how to create jobs in the economy and revive investments.
The reasons for the meeting, according to sources is that the new government will have very little time once the results are announced to present its budget. According to the new Budget calendar, close to half of the year will be over by July when the Budget is expected to be placed by the elected government. Even by the April-March calendar, more than one quarter would be over.
The Aayog wants to get the background papers and themes ready for the ministries, once the elections are over, to begin their work at the earliest. While there would be meetings closer to the Budget, the overarching themes could meanwhile be fleshed out within the Aayog, based on the inputs it has now.
At Thursday’s meeting, some of the economists made reference to the dismal state of the agricultural economy and the consequent low-income trap for farmers and the agricultural labourers. They also suggested that the new government should reconsider the fiscal framework to create more space for public investments.
However, the assembled economists did not comment on the controversies regarding macro data including GDP and job creation numbers. They also did not allude to the resignation of the acting chief of the National Statistical Commission in protest over the government’s alleged reluctance to release the data on job creation.