New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government on Monday sought applications for the post of chief economic adviser (CEA) in the finance ministry without specifying tenure, to replace Arvind Subramanian who resigned from the post last month. The post was widely expected to be left vacant as the government cannot give a long term to the CEA in the last year of its tenure ahead of the general elections next year.

Subramanian resigned from his post before his tenure ends in May 2019 citing personal reasons. He is expected to return to academic research and writing in the US, apart from discharging the new responsibilities of a grandparent. His exit from office was announced by Union minister Arun Jaitley, who broke the news in a Facebook post titled “Thank you Arvind". “He left me with no option but to agree with him," Jaitley said.

The government has encouraged government officers, including those from public sector enterprises or the Reserve Bank of India to apply for the post. Candidates from recognised universities and research institutions are also eligible to apply for the post.

The maximum age limit for the position has been fixed at 56 years and the last date for applying is 20 July 2018.

While the minimum educational qualification is a master’s degree in economics, a doctoral degree in finance or economics has been made preferable. For government employees seeking to apply, six years’ experience in economic research or providing economic advice has been made mandatory.

“The selection committee reserves the right to invite and short-list suitable individuals from outside the list of applicants for the posts," the notification said.

Former chief statistician of India Pronab Sen said the problem for the government is that the actual tenure can only be till the upcoming general election. “After that the next government can throw you out. Getting a good candidate in such a scenario is going to be quite difficult," he said.

Sen said to seek six years’ experience for the top economist position in the government is a joke. “It should be a minimum of 10 to 15 years of experience. They have already kept their target low. They are probably looking at somebody in his mid-thirties to fulfill the criteria," he added.

Though the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in its last year in office did not bring out an Economic Survey, Sen said the government is free to bring out the Survey. “It has to be a vote on account when it comes to the next budget, but Economic Survey is a function of the economic division in the finance ministry and the division continues to exist," he added.

After Raghuram Rajan demitted the office of chief economic adviser in September 2013 to become the governor of the Reserve Bank of India, the UPA government did not appoint a chief economic adviser for the rest of its term. The post remained vacant for more than a year, until Subramanian took charge on 16 October 2014 after the National Democratic Alliance government came to power.

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