1) Raghuram Rajan is one of the foremost economists of our time, with a super-enviable CV. He studied at IIT Delhi, IIM Ahmedabad, did his PhD from the MIT Sloan School of Management in the US, was RBI governor from 2013 to 2016, has been chief economist and director of research at the IMF, and is currently a professor of finance at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. He is considered one of the world’s finest experts on monetary policy.
2) He had predicted the global financial crisis of 2008 three years before it hit. At a lecture organized by the US Federal Reserve in 2005, he had warned about the growing risks in the financial system and proposed policies that would reduce them. He was ridiculed for his views then, but he came to be seen as prescient not long after.
3) He has been in the running for the Nobel Prize in Economics. He was one of the six economists on a list of probable winners prepared by Clarivate Analytics, a company that predicts Nobel winners, in 2017. While he didn’t win the Nobel that year, he may just win it for his new book The Third Pillar. If he does, he will be the second Indian economist, after Amartya Sen in 1998, to win the prize.
4) His new book, The Third Pillar, is testament to the fact that Raghuram Rajan is a national asset for India. Rarely has there been an Indian of such global intellectual and professional stature. Rarer has been a work of non-fiction by an Indian that tackles a subject of global relevance, insight and impact. The Third Pillar solidifies Rajan’s position as someone India should rightly be proud of.
5) He makes finance, economics and business easy to understand for the lay reader. Rajan proved his strength in writing in an accessible manner with his most recent book, I Do What I Do, which has sold more than 100,000 copies and has reprinted several times. The book’s stellar success attests to his ability to not only analyse complex issues but also get his point across simply and effectively.
6) He follows a similar style in The Third Pillar. He takes a subject with a vast scope – how societies around the world are suffering by giving too much importance to markets and the government at the cost of local communities – and presents a way to lessen despair and unrest. It is a book that will help you understand the forces that affect your everyday life and the future of economic progress.
7) The scale of the book may be global, but there’s plenty on India. In a section focused on India, Rajan discusses how to harness the strengths of a vibrant but chaotic democracy, why India has not done as well as China in some areas, and what to make of the threat of populist nationalism. He predicts that a democratic, open, tolerant India may be an important contributor to global governance in the decades to come.
8) The book has just been released, and economists around the world are already talking about it. The Third Pillar will have an international release on 26th February, but has notched up advance praise from the who’s who of the field of economics, including Amartya Sen, Kenneth Rogoff (former IMF chief economist), James A. Robinson (co-author of Why Nations Fail), Janet Yellen (former chair of the US Federal Reserve), and many more.
9) He does not fear asking tough questions. The premise of The Third Pillar are dilemmas such as: Why, when the economies of developed countries are growing, do we feel such economic despair? Why, when there are exciting new technologies on the horizon, is unhappiness so widespread? Why are well-educated people at the risk of losing jobs? This tendency of speaking bold truths is altogether in keeping with the man who made news for criticizing the government’s demonetization decision.
10) Rajan clearly has the stomach for political fights – as he proved during his term as RBI governor and even later when he went hammer and tongs at demonetization. Indian politics is known to throw up surprises. Many see him as someone with the charisma, popular appeal and intellect needed for the post of Prime Minister. If not, then at least Finance Minister surely? In a general election year, when the economy is the most important point of debate, he may well emerge as the leader India deserves. And you may want to read what he will bring to the policy high table before he gets there!
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