Essentially non-essential! – The Hindu BusinessLine

Clipped from: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/essentially-non-essential/article35326761.ece?homepage=true

Economists’ battle to keep their services ‘essential’

It has now been two lockdowns in Maharashtra — the nation-wide lockdown last year, and the State-level one this year. Only people delivering “essential” services have been allowed to venture outside.

Now, this has affected confidence levels of all creatures economists. That is because of the simple Orwellian maxim – All economists are non-essential, but some economists are more non-essential than others. Never has it been more important to be a doctor. After all, doctors are amongst the “haves” and “have” made the lists in both lockdowns.

Those economists who have never published an article in newspapers are doomed. You might be writing academic papers, but are you in the media, is the question. Because you see, media stuff is “essential”. Newspapers are groaning under the tons of articles they receive from economists. Editors have been marvelling at this new-found energy amongst the economist community to comment on any which thing under the sun. Most editors are found wistfully wishing that at least some of the over-excited economists could get absorbed with the advertisers, who in sharp contrast to the economists, have withdrawn deep within their shells.

In an attempt to get some fresh air during the lockdown, economists also tried to go on air. Post lockdown, in those debates where all you see is people in little boxes yelling at each other, six out of 10 are economists. They simply blast politicians, psephologists, farmers, activists, petrol pump dealers, doctors and bureaucrats routinely out of their way. Such is the drama that news is that Bollywood will now come out with the angry young economist in a film soon. The film is to be titled, predictably, one must say, “Economists ko gussa kyon ataa hain.” In the meanwhile, all TV channels have taken keen, personal interest in getting economists into the list of essential service providers just to get the aggressive tribe off their backs.

In an attempt to be labelled essential, those with a statistical bone have quickly declared themselves to be health-economists. They use fancy Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence models to predict the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, most of the machines have learnt really fast that the only ones with the intelligence of the artificial type seem to be economists. By now, algorithms are also predicting that the spread of the virus can be controlled if and only if the non-essential service providers, errr, meaning economists with warped statistics capabilities, stay at home.

But if we are confined to our homes, then who will keep the fiscal deficits of the government under control? On hearing which bureaucrats could barely suppress their smiles. But then, sputtered the economists, who will advise best way to increase GST collections? The big four tightened their ties, pun intended. On cue, government officials loosened their purse strings, contributing healthily to the aforementioned fiscal deficit.

And what about democracy, governance and RTI? The Supreme Court brought down its gavel in contempt. Hey, and who will debate about the latest growth rate numbers?

But then, remember, we are talking about wily economists. They came out with their masterstroke. “And who will write long assessment reports which no one reads?”, they asked cleverly. Hmmm, now that is an essential service, agreed the babus. In all future lockdowns, economists are to be allowed to move out so that they can write completely incomprehensible reports on how to keep economists confined to their homes.

The author is a brave economist trying to laugh against the odds

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