Bibek Debroy

Articles By Bibek Debroy

117 Articles

China, quid without a quo: 1954 India-China trade agreement was one-sided affair

By any yardstick, the trade agreement was one-sided, in favour of China. Today, any negotiator who agreed to this would be hauled over the coals.

In any such trade agreement, while negotiating, negotiators try to identify products where their country has a comparative advantage, though comparative advantage is necessarily dynamic and changes over time.

Pests and Law: Drumming up support against locusts

Anything built into legislation has to be formally repealed. Consequently, an anachronism like Section 4(1)(2) remains. The ordinance should have lapsed

Indeed, locusts are efficient sources of food, far more than meat, but obviously, not when swarms have been sprayed with harmful chemicals.

Robinson Crusoe’s skills: Because of the virus, some autarky vis-à-vis the external world is inevitable

But Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson (published 1812) are also a metaphor for something else, that of self-reliance, which is why economists coined the expression, Robinson Crusoe economy.

But growth, productivity and employment are about society’s economic goals, not morality.

Risk, uncertainty and COVID-19: A stark choice

Risk has a known probability distribution. For uncertainty, the probability distribution is unknown. Covid-19 makes us confront uncertainty, not risk

If I mechanically divide India’s Covid-19 deaths by its total number of confirmed cases, I will get a death rate just over 3%.

Covid-19 Pandemic: Why India urgently needs a uniformed statute

The seventh schedule lists health as a state subject, and different states have provisions that aren’t necessarily uniform and harmonised.

Today, health issues are different, and broader, than what they were in 1897. (PTI Image)

Bite that beetle: Entomophagy promises smaller environment footprint, higher food conversion efficiency

Two billion people eat insects today, but for many, they are not part of mainstream diet. With global population soaring, humans will be forces to seek them out as a food source.

Distorted balance of India’s population pyramid: Ageing population creates pressing economic concern

With declining birth and death rates having distorted the balance of the population pyramid, social security for senior citizens has become a pressing economic concern

Indian Railways reforms: A single cadre for Railways management

The newly minted Indian Railways Management service can break down the silos that plague the Railways. But this will not be without its challenges

Railway reforms, Indian Railways, IRPS, Debroy Committee, UPSC, Railway Board, Group of Secretaries

Indian Railways departmentalism worse than 1905! Reforms to cut Railway Board, merge cadre the right step

Departmentalism plagued the management of the railways, the railway board reform addresses this

Indian Railways

Salt bureaucracy pounding salt

With other departments/bodies having assumed most of their functions, the most that Salt departments can do today is to exploit the land they own.

Justice delayed: Are fast-track courts fast enough?

In 2017, Fast-track courts in only six states managed to dispose 50% of their cases within a year.

Swachh Bharat shows how to nudge the right way

Setting up a ‘behaviour insight team’ in the govt, to help different ministries incorporate psychological and cognitive dimensions in public policy, may be useful.

swachh bharat mission,

Junk Boilers Act and relook Seventh Schedule

With perceptions about inspections by private companies having changed, the Indian Boilers Act, 1923, and the entire Seventh Schedule, needs a relook.

Irrespective of whether boilers needed oil and grease or not, inspectors did. Since 2014, there have been more relaxations, with self-certification pushed (Representational Image)

Restructuring of centrally sponsored schemes cannot be done without consultation with states

A CSS restructuring/rationalisation debate requires relook at the Seventh Schedule, and cannot be done without consultation with states at an appropriate forum.

The difference between a CS and a CSS is that for a central sector scheme, all expenditure is borne by the Union government

Giving legal rights to water bodies a great leap forward

Without contesting pollution in Ganga and Yamuna, one should be sceptical of lists and rankings, both because of data problems (there are good data only for OECD) and because of the way numbers are used

Ill-being of rivers is primarily due to raw sewage and industrial waste. (Representational image)

India’s economic journey: A fountain-pen story

Though fountain-pens weren’t branded, the ink certainly was. It was, and had to be, Sulekha. Sulekha Works, started initially in 1934 in what is now Bangladesh, was identified with self-reliance and the Independence movemen

fountain pen, sulekha ink, fountain pen ink, fountain pen inventor, fountain pen price, fountain pen india, fountain pen parker, fountain pen writing, fountain pen nib

GDP revisions and what has been said on growth numbers

Revising GDP series isn't unusual. Nor should one ascribe a malignant motive to a continuous and evolving process.

Arvind Subramanian’s attempt to estimate GDP instead of explaining it through cross-country regression fraught with problems

As the dependent variable, he had heights of actresses on the Bengali stage in the 19th century, with a clear perceptible decline in heights towards the end of the century. Among

GDP estimation: System not perfect, but it’s better than one based on annual surveys

The working paper mentions the National Statistical Commission (NSC). The seeds of NSC were sown by the C. Rangarajan Commission in September 2001. Many people may have forgotten what this report said.

What happened in January 2015 was more than a base year change from 2004-05 to 2011-12. There was a switch from GDP at factor cost to GVA

Understanding India’s middle-income trap

Even if one uses this relative notion, the case of a middle income trap existing is not proven. Does that mean there are no issues with the Indian economy? Certainly not

For the sake of sheer perversity, just before 1991 reforms, there were roughly 20 rupees to a dollar and right now, there are roughly 70 rupees to a dollar.

Why formalised training and placement for plumbers is a must

An ordinary graduate earns Rs 10,000 per month. A plumber earns Rs 20,000 per month. There is the broader issue of whether the education system delivers marketable skills.

Skilled training for plumbers is a must (Illustration: rohnit phore/ File)

Hairy politics: There is discrimination between armed forces and police when it comes to moustache allowances

Like discrimination between kings in playing card decks, there is discrimination between armed forces and police when it comes to moustache allowances.

How should India track its time; Office hours in Northeast need to be changed

The existing IST is said to be negatively impacting the lives of the northeastern people as the sun rises and sets much earlier than the official working hours.

clock, indian standart time, ist, nort east, north east india, meghalaya

At Kumbh Mela, sadhus and akhadas galore, but how many religious mendicants are there?

State-wise, with an aggregate of 81,244, West Bengal leads by a considerable margin, followed by UP. These numbers differ slightly from figures given in the ministry of social justice and empowerment’s handbook on social we

Sadhus, Sangam, Makar Sankranti, Kumbh Mela, Prayagraj. financial express, editorial

Swachh Bharat: 500,000 volunteers have changed lakhs of villages

On both households’ usage of toilets and open defecation free villages, there is some slippage but not as much as one might have thought

Swachh Bharat numbers, Swachh Bharat Mission, Annual Rural Sanitation Survey, IHHL, Swachhagraha Preraks, ASHA worker, Anganwadi worker

In imagining Make-in-India, focus has strongly been on scaling up and lowering cost

Successful teaching is individual-specific and a successful teacher adapts according to capacity and receptivity of recipient.

education, education sector, education industry

Courts must punish false evidence: Bibek Debroy, Chairman, EAC to the PM

In the second, the Court tells us perjury has assumed alarming propositions.

Income Tax Calculator, Budget 2019, How to Calculate Income Tax


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