Economist Arvind Panagariya named first vice chairman of NITI Aayog

Free-market economist and Columbia University professor Arvind Panagariya, who today became the first Vice-Chairman of the newly formed NITI Aayog, has been one of the most vocal supporters of 'Gujarat model of growth'.

A renowned Indian-American economist, 62-year old Panagariya is known for his market-friendly views and is a close associate of well-known trade economist Jagdish Bhagwati. The two have often challenged Nobel laureate Amartya Sen to an open debate on Indian economy.

Much before Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to the national scene, Panagariya has been voicing his support for the economic policies of the former Gujarat Chief Minister during his tenure in the state.

Panagariya and Bhagwati, in a book co-authored by them and named India's Trust with Destiny: Debunking Myths that Undermine Progress and Addressing New Challenges', used 'Gujarat Model' as a metaphor for development primarily driven by growth and private entrepreneurship.

On the other hand, they used 'Kerala Model' as a metaphor for primarily redistribution and state-driven development.

During the last Lok Sabha elections in 2014, Modi's 'Gujarat Model' was one of the main poll planks of his party.

Sen, at the same time, has said that India should invest more in social infrastructure to boost productivity of its people for growth.

Panagariya, who holds a Ph.D from the US-based Princeton University, has also been a proponent of increased capital spending to boost growth, while he has also previously advocated relaxing fiscal deficit targets.

Currently a Professor of Economics at Columbia University, he has earlier been the Chief Economist of the Asian Development Bank and a Professor of Economics and Co-director, Center for International Economics, University of Maryland at College Park.

The economic professor has also worked for the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in various capacities.

Panagariya did his graduation from Rajasthan University and has authored over 15 books, including, Why Growth Matters, (with Jagdish Bhagwati). The government had earlier honored Panagariya with Padma Bhushan.

An advisor to Vasundhra Raje government in Rajasthan, he was seen as a big supporter of the state's labour reforms.

Government also appointed economist Bibek Debroy and Former Secretary Defence R&D V K Saraswat as NITI members.

Cambridge-educated Debroy has worked in different capacities with the Indian government.

He has worked as Director of Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, Consultant to the Department of Economic Affairs of Finance Ministry and Secretary General of PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

He was also Director of the project LARGE (Legal Adjustments and Reforms for Globalising the Economy), set up by the Finance Ministry and UNDP for examining legal reforms.

Soon after appointment, Bibek Debroy tweeted: "Am with doctor. No snide comments please. Appointment was fixed earlier. Hence incommunicado. While waiting, thinking of 7 answers." 

Meanwhile, Saraswat is an Indian scientist was also the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Minister of Defence.

A Padma Shri awardee, Saraswat was closely with the Prithvi missile programme and its induction in the armed forces. He superannuated in May 2013.

A post-graduate from the prestigious Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, he also holds a doctorate from Osmania University, Hyderabad.

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