Ranjona Banerji: The Economy turns around, and so do the Experts

13 Sep,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

As a newspaper reader, I would like an apology from all anyone at all who has written on the economy in the past three months. Because they have confused the hell out of me, pardon my French. Till a month ago, as far as I could tell, India was teetering on the edge of disaster. The rupee-dollar ratio was the worst ever, industrial output was down, money was fleeing the country, the Sensex and other indices were tanking – one more thing going wrong and we might as well run like lemmings to the nearest cliff.

 

“Expert” after “expert” in newspapers and on websites told us how India can never recover, that it was foolish to blame world events and the US Federal Bank’s moves and that Sonia Gandhi and the Food Security Bill were to blame. The only person I could make sense of was Paul Krugman in the New York Times who asked what all the fuss was about. Television largely – and quite wisely — side-stepped the economy since hysterical jingoistic debates are not really possible when words like Capital Account Expenditure and Repo Rate are flung about. Then, Raghuram Rajan became governor of the Reserve Bank of India. And magically – there can be no other word – the situation turned around. The same experts now told us that everything was looking up, the CAD was not acting that caddish, the rupee was correcting itself versus the dollar, the Sensex was rising and we need not head to the cliff after all.

 

Well, I don’t believe it. Both things cannot be true. Either the first predictions were hogwash or the second indications are rubbish. Or, and I think this is most likely, these experts have abandoned any semblance of interpretation for needless predictions. They never knew as we all remember that the western world’s financial system would crash in 2008. They keep celebrating random CEOs till they are sacked for mismanagement or insider trading. They follow stock exchanges as if those are the main gauge of life. So what do they know now?

 

This morning’s papers tell us that industrial output is now up in India. Are we supposed to laugh or cry? I must however give a shout out to The Economic Times which steered clear of all this doomsday nonsense.

 

**

 

I am not sure what to make of the new look of the Hindustan Times. The headline fonts look a little too condensed to me and the pages look crowded. Also the little front page jacket flap which is supposed to be torn out and kept with the reader through the day – what’s that about? In this digital day and age who is going to keep a crumpled up page of newspaper with them all day?

 

But it is good to see other writers on the Hindustan Times edit page and perhaps soon they will do without our television worthies and their anodyne banalities.

 

**

 

Are TV and print being ironic when they keep calling the BJP’s declaration of Narendra Modi as their putative prime minister an “anointment” or a “crowning”? It is hard to tell because in these times, irony seems to be in short supply in the Indian media. It is quite likely that headline writers and sub-editors really believe that “anointment” is another word for “appointment” and “crowning” is another word for “announcement”. On the other hand, there is a distinct undercurrent of satire when Rahul Gandhi is called a “crown prince”.

 

It is another matter that there is no need for anyone to announce a prime ministerial candidate since the Constitution has some other ideas on how this “crowning” is to be done. Sigh.

 

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