Modi influence on eco survey?

What else would you conclude when his pet theme of ‘demographic dividend’ gets a full chapter?


Ajay Singh | February 27, 2013

The economic survey, presented in parliament on Wednesday, has a curious new feature: a full chapter on ‘Seizing the demographic dividend’, on how the youth are going to dominate the next decade or so, and what it means for the future of job creation in India.

Of course, ‘demographic dividend’ is not a new phenomenon for economists. It has also attracted the attention of the political class since the youth are expected to comprise the biggest political base.

That is why Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has been harping on this theme quite effectively – during the Vibrant Gujarat summit in January as well as in his much-talked-about speech at the Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) in Delhi. In his view, the union government is not fully prepared to take advantage of the demographic dividend which will add to the country’s productive human resource base. On the other hand, he also cautions that if the country fails to turn this demographic change into advantage, it would on the brink of chaos: a large number of unemployed and aimless youngsters will be a recipe for disaster.

The economic survey has attempted to address these concerns and compared India’s demographic profile with that of other Asian countries like China, Indonesia and South Korea. The document takes note of the concerns about the slowdown of the economy, and recommends measures to generate employment. In the process, it ends up repeating the very issues that Modi has been articulating with more conviction.

For all we know, this influence of Modi could be unwitting. An eminent economist like Raghuram Rajan, chief economic adviser to the finance minister and thus the chief author of the survey, is not expected to be influenced by Modi’s political rhetoric. But, at any rate, if Rajan considers this an issue important enough to be devoted a separate chapter, then it needs to be said that Modi grasped its significance well ahead in time.

Either way, there is no doubt that ‘demographic dividend’ will be a new addition to the political lexicon as the contest for the votes of the younger generation is only going to get sharper in the next 12 months.




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