David Cameron and the Half Blood Prince

Dear Reader,

Hi! Here’s another Tweak piece on what happens when the British PM meets with Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic! Being a huge Potter fan, it was tremendous fun for me to put this up for my column “Tweakonomics” which appears in the Hindu Business Line. You may want to read it at http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/columns/tweakonomics-muggle-muddle/article8784435.ece; else read it here directly!

Enjoy, Ye Potter Fans!


Muggle Muddle

It was nearing midnight and the British Prime Minister was sitting alone in his office, reading about Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to get the Brexit going. In his mind he could see the gloating face of Nigel Farage, his political opponent from the UK Independence Party.

Farage had been vehement about the incompetency of the government. It had allowed too much immigration, he said, leading to loss of jobs for the British. The terrorist threat had increased. British sovereignty had been compromised. Of course, the young knew better. They knew it was an advantage to be inside the EU. But they hadn’t turned up for voting! So many accusations, the referendum and now, the Brexit. It seemed almost magical.

It was then that he heard a soft cough. He froze, he knew that cough. He turned very slowly to face the grate, wherein green flames were already bursting into Sterling pounds. Seconds later, Cornelius Fudge climbed out of the flames. “What a week, what a week,” he said, looking distinctly careworn compared to when he had seen him earlier.

“Had a bad one too, have you?” asked the PM stiffly. “Yes, of course,” said Fudge, rubbing his eyes morosely. “I’ve been having the same week you have, Prime Minister. Accusations, monsoon failures, a Rexit and a Brexit.” “You.. er.. your.. I mean to say, your people were.. were involved in those things, were they?” Fudge fixed the PM with a stern look. “Of course they were,” he said, “Surely you’ve realised what’s going on?” “I…” hesitated the PM.

It was precisely this sort of behaviour that made him dislike Fudge’s visits so much. He was, after all, the PM and did not appreciate being made to feel like an ignorant schoolboy. The first time Fudge had emerged from those flames, he’d said, “The world is moving into a crisis. Albus Rajan has already forecast the sub-prime. But we will control the Dementor attacks using dragons. Don’t look so scared, Cameron.” “Dragons?” The PM wasn’t quite sure he’d heard right. It was only after Mario Draghi took over at the ECB that he had started appreciating Fudge.

The second time he’d seen him was just before the 2013 Wimbledon finals. “Wimbledonium Murraysmus” he’d muttered, enabling Andy to give magical replies to Djokovic of Durmstrang fame.

But this time the Wizard looked tired. “It’s been an unprecedented week all over the world. The Dark Forces are strengthening. They put the Muffliato Charm on your campaign so that no one could really hear your arguments for staying within the EU. Use of the tricky Fidelus Charm on young people has also been detected. The young population couldn’t see the voting booth till the secret keeper decided to reveal it to them. The Secret Keeper was Farage!”

“That’s why he was gloating!” thought Cameron. “Why only us?” he asked.

“Oh, no no! It’s everywhere! They apparently managed to put the Imperius Charm on this Indian parliamentarian, after which he imperially started blaming economic wizards for things they hadn’t done. Quite a menace. And then, the Rexit happened.”

“So, has Rajan decided to retire?”

“It’s not Rajan! It’s RaGa! He’s apparently finally learnt to disapparate. Rumour is that he’s coming here to steer you through the Brexit. He says that only the Rexit can prevent the Brexit.”

“What? OMG! Arrange a press conference for me immediately, Fudge. I resign as Prime Minister of the UK.”

Dear Reader,

Hi! This presentation was prepared to support my talk to MBA students on the Brexit. It contains the basics of what the Brexit is all about. I have attempted to give a quick historical background to the European Union and the Eurozone, and have then created slides on the pros and the cons of the Brexit.

It is possible that you feel a disconnect while browsing through the slides, because the connections are meant to be created through the talk. If such an issue arises at all, just write in, and I’ll take care of your query pronto!

Brexit June 2016

Who will be the new Governor? On a different wicket!

Dear Reader,

Hi! Well, here’s a wicked twist to an otherwise serious Rexit saga! This piece appeared under my column “Tweakonomics” in the Hindu Business Line. You may want to read it at http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/columns/tweakonomics-on-a-different-wicket/article8760727.ece; else read it here directly. Enjoy!

The hunt for the one

BCCI. The hunt for the next Indian coach is on. A special panel will be interviewing potential candidates telephonically.

It is interview day, not only at the BCCI, but also at the RBI. The PMO has asked some economists to telephonically outline their plans to a special panel. As fate would have it, the lines overlap.

Sachin: Yes?

Urjit Patel: Good morning, Sir. This is Patel.

Tendulkar covers the mouthpiece and tells the others confusedly, “Its Parthiv Patel! I didn’t even know he had applied!”

Tendulkar: Hey! The safest hands in Gujarat!

Urjit Patel (blushing, thinking that its the PM at the other end): Arre, no, Sir! That is an accolade that suits you, Sir! I am just the guy who keeps the movement inside the target. That’s my philosophy for success. Benchmark correctly and then, just keep the inflation rate in target zone. Nothing can then stop us, Sir!

Tendulkar (hangs up, to the others): Excellent! Patel’s plan is to keep the other team from getting inflated scores. Wants to focus more on creating a better bowling line up. Nice!

The phone rings again. It’s Arvind Subramanian.

AS: Hi there! This is Arvind!

VVS (totally confused, to the others): What is happening? Where are the senior players? I can’t believe Sreenath Aravind is applying as coach!

VVS: Ummm, hi, Aravind! Well, we never thought you’d be interested in this profile!

AS: I think I am ready for it. Dabbling with developmental issues helped me to write India’s Turn: Understanding the Economic Transformation in 2008. In my current position, I have managed to put in some new thoughts into the policy. JAM is a case in point and it will revolutionalise our delivery mechanism! And my present profile puts me on the same wicket as you, Sir! I understand how the Government works. This insight will be greatly useful if I were to move on the other side! By 2019, I think I can really make India ready for her turn in the globe!

VVS (hangs up, in awe): Did you listen to that slip of a boy, gentlemen? He talks about India’s turn in the 2019 World Cup! But how will JAM improve the delivery?

Tendulkar: Must be some new diet! This boy is good! And did you hear that bit where he hinted that he understands how the Government works? That’s what any coach needs to understand in this country. Impressive!

Phone rings yet again.

Subir Gokarn: Hi, this is Subir.

Ganguly (mistaking him for the Cricket Association of Bengal Joint Secretary Subir Ganguly): Baablu da! Ki holo! I am so happy to know you are a contender for this post! What are your main strategies?

Gokarn (confused at being addressed as Baablu da): Umm, yes, well, the first issue is that India has held her own against a turbulent global change. However, to do this consistently, we have to now focus on infrastructure. That is the second strategy. The third is that food costs have to be addressed. Diversification of diets creates pressures, which the supply side has not been able to manage properly. And the fourth is to look at financial inclusion.

Ganguly (hangs up, impressed): That was something! Has thought of infrastructure, diets as well as better pay for our boys. A true champion indeed!

In the meanwhile, Ravi Shastri makes a presentation to the PMO and gets the job as the Governor. A Rentry to counter the Rexit!

Rajan and RaGa!

Dear Reader,

Hi! Well, our UPA scion could well be the RBI Guv! This article appeared under my column “Tweakonomics” in the Hindu Business Line today. You can read it at http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/columns/rajan-and-raga/article8706066.ece; else scroll on to read it here. Enjoy!

The scene opens in the UPA office, where Netaji is in deep thought about reaching sycophancy Level 3.

Clever Guptaji: Did you see the news, Sir? He has kept the repo rates unchanged! The guidance is oil prices are firming up and we are on a wait and watch for the monsoon. And, of course, there is the dollar factor as well. With Janet Yellen saying growth is firming up, the Fed may well hike the rates, Sir! And I think she has been really planning this upward move for a long time. And he is maintaining status quo today. Errr, Sir? Sir? Are you listening to me?

Netaji (suddenly jerking out of his favourite “Down with the NDA!” reverie): Uh? Yes, Guptaji! She has been planning to make this upward move all the while! And we fans are actually insisting that she does it on his birthday — June 19, Guptaji! But what a man! He wants to maintain status quo. I tell you (now overcome with emotion), it is not everyday that you see such a clear-minded, such unselfish, such pure leadership!

Clever Guptaji (impressed that Boss has such unsuspected inside news on the Fed): What? You know that she plans to do this on June 19? But Sir, with this news, we could then really make money in futures.

Netaji (flustered): Really now, Guptaji! How can you be so callous and ghastly about this? We are not in this for the money. Look at the man, Guptaji. He is pure gold! The gold man of India. Sach!

Clever Guptaji (confused): Goldman Sachs? Nnno, Sir, I always thought he was with the IMF. Anyway, I thought it was very astute of him not to change anything in a hurry. And while his stance is precautionary, the policy will still continue to be accommodative. This man is good, I tell you, Sir.

Netaji (swelling up with pride): You couldn’t have put it better, Guptaji! All these resignations have created such issues. But even in such difficult times, our leader says exercise precaution, but remain accommodative! Poetry in politics, Guptaji! And he is really trying to clean up the party, you know.

Clever Guptaji: Yes, that clean-up was necessary. It reduces profitability in the short run, but it really ensures long-run stability and growth. Presence of NPAs within public sector banks also has slowed the transmission. When it comes to asset quality, our man is undaunted. It is so difficult to make sure that the deserving get credit but that all those causing stress on quality are restrained.

Netaji: Yes, presence of NDA has really messed up all of our calculations! As you said, it is so difficult to make sure that the deserving get credit, but yet the others don’t get jealous! It’s quite a tight ropewalk, this one! And then, if under extreme duress, our leader fumbles sometime, they say this talk is cuckoo!

Clever Guptaji: Don’t say that, Netaji! He hates bird analogies! Oh, I really hope this guy stays here some more! But this Swamy controversy is in such bad taste!

Netaji (face darkening): Oh, let that Swamy say what he wants to. But on June 19, our Baba will become the Congress President!

Clever Guptaji (understanding and horror dawning on his face): What? Is that what you were talking about all the while? Your party politics? And here I was, thinking of the monetary policy of India.

Netaji (smiling): I know. But it’d be cruel of me to spoil the fun you were having!


How to be Economist

Become an engineer

This is crucial. If you aspire to be Economist, it absolutely is crucial that you don’t enrol for an undergrad program in Economics. Do not let those marginal microeconomic nano-particles get into your systems at the margin while in a carefree, young age. Get an engineering degree instead. Our professional field is anyway full of engineers. Might as well get an engineering degree and learn how to change a light bulb or do something useful.

Since you are an engineer, they will automatically assume that you know Maths (only other engineers know that you don’t) and will unleash some crazy Hamiltonians onto your poor, innocent, relatively harmless engineering mind at Masters level. But look at them in the eye and pretend that you can see the solution. Just pretend. Remember, they cannot. So, you pretending to know will be enough. Just wind up the discussion by saying you can’t quite see that second differential equation getting solved in three variables, and say that you’ll submit the solution for the third variable hopefully by tonight. That should get them into a right sweat.

If engineering is really not quite the thingy for you, any other stuff will do. A nice major in Literature should do quite well, except that they’ll automatically assume you don’t know Maths and will unleash some crazy Hamiltonians onto your poor, innocent, relatively harmless literary mind at Masters level with double zeal and energy. Look at them in the eye and pooh-pooh it. Oh yeah. Just do what I say. If you have a bit of an actor in you, say with hitherto unsuspected vengeance and contempt,” Maths is just a tool to reach the solution. Once you get there, call me”. Gently drift away, leaving the buggers open-mouthed.

Pssst! You already are in the second year undergrad Economics? How could you, my dear…but, ok, let me tell you, all is not lost. So this is what you do. Ignore the texts. Um-hmm, you read right. Ignore it. It is important to remember that you can’t take the marginalists too seriously. They are designed to make young kids crazy with marginal ideas.  Clear your exams, thank the Almighty and move into an MBA degree immediately.

It’s full of engineers too, who are busy trying to act like they understand stock markets immaculately. Unleash your frustration onto them. Use the word “marginal” into every statement of yours. Tell them that their stock market analysis might just work using the law of averages, but if any kind of a downside risk enters the domain at the margin, then the marginal effect may just create unnecessary tensions in the system. Gosh! What an amazingly stupid statement! But believe me, they like this kinda stuff.

But, I dither. Because this blog is about how to be economist. If you are in an Economics undergrad program, you are already not in the right queue, dearie. You’ll have to move into that MBA. Wait for my next blog on “How to be MBA”.

Learn music

It is important to have a taste in music. The more eclecticer your taste, the exoticer you are as an economist. Its alright not to understand repo rates, but the Lord help you if you don’t know breathing under water. Nah, dear, I am not talking about actually breathing under water. We economists are not about doing the physical underwater stunts right. That we can cause entire economies to submerge under debt burdens is another thing altogether. I dither again, right? Well, so, Breathing Under Water is an Anoushka Shankar album.

Also learn to hum, especially with clients who are anxious about some forecast gone wrong. That helps them to breathe underwater, sorry, couldn’t resist that one; that helps them to breathe easier because they think you know how to troubleshoot. Trouble is you don’t. So, hum. It has multiple benefits. It eases your mind, calms the client and saves you the trouble of doing stupid small talk. Also, if the bugger sitting opposite you also starts humming, it’s time to hum something even more exotic. Even the worst will shut up when you eventually hum Yo-Yo Honey Singh. That man always works.

Write a paper titled “The wage differential in paddy field cultivation in two adjacent districts in West Bengal and Orissa: Is it a cultural overhang?”

By this time, they will be eating out of your hands. You have just delivered the perfect six. Remember, the key words are paddy and overhang. You can substitute cultural with sociological, political, paternalistic or coastal. It does not matter. If you can overhang, please do so immediately. Also, look out for a real exotic journal to get the stuff published in. “The International Journal of Regional and District Dynamics” should do the nicely. There. You are almost ready. One last thing..

Grow a beard

Men, you really really need this accessory. It creates several delightful options in the mind of anyone who sees you. A bearded economist could be

  1. Leftist
  2. Communist
  3. Communist-rightist (That’s tricky)
  4. Rightist, with a left past (My fav ones!)
  5. Leftist, with a right past (Nope. Not happening.)

It leaves the client in dilemma, whilst you hum behind that beard. If you are a pathetic singer, the beard provides just the right amount of muffling. If you are humming Yo-Yo of course, no muffling works. If you are a good singer, the hum plus the beard is an extremely reassuring signal. I’ve even heard that the beard protects you from face burn whilst on the paddy field to do your dissertation on cultural overhang.

I know, I know, you are thinking what do the girls do? Simple. Try the bindi. You either need to wear a huge one or don’t wear one at all. The huge one creates a Smriti-Sushma effect and the zero one pushes you into Didi mode. Both images have been known to help in making the entire world sit up while you do your forecasts in style. Remember, earrings are prohibited, unless you are male with no beard.

Are we ready?