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Arun Jaitley’s most crucial role for India was as a reformer of the economy (PTI file)
Arun Jaitley’s most crucial role for India was as a reformer of the economy (PTI file)

Opinion | Jaitley’s legacy

No matter how he settles into national memory, his most crucial role was as a reformer of the economy

Arun Jaitley (1952-2019), who died on Saturday after a prolonged illness, shall be missed for many reasons. No matter how he settles into national memory, his most crucial role was as a reformer of the economy. For this, we must credit his grasp of big arguments across a wide spectrum of India.

With good fiscal sense as his mantra, the Narendra Modi government’s first finance minister set the goods and services tax rolling. For all its glitches and complexity, it has indeed got going—to India’s benefit, as it will surely be. He also championed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, which has reformed our credit culture to an extent. The Code may have faltered since, but seems effective enough to deter crony capitalism. In his boldest move, he helped pivot India’s monetary policy towards snuffing out inflation.

He raised the central bank’s level of autonomy to better enable it to achieve that aim; the leeway may have narrowed a bit, but inflation is no threat today. What kept his mind whirring, arguably, was the close ear he lent to what the other side was arguing—if only to enrich his own stance. His reformist legacy should stand India in good stead.

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