Jaitley stoutly defends demonetisation, GST at Columbia University; next stop Harvard

India’s finance minister is playing up the country’s latest political hot potato - a (slowing) economy as a big win for speedy reforms, a cleaner political funding system and pushed back against those in "civic society who have only problems for every solution.”

Link: Livestream of Jaitley's speech and Q and A session at Columbia

Jaitley fielded tough questions and stoutly defended both GST and demonetisation at Columbia University in New York en route his next stop at Harvard and the finally the IMF meetings in Washington DC.

Arun Jaitley and former Niti Aayog VC Arvind Panagariya

Arun Jaitley and former Niti Aayog VC Arvind Panagariya

Jaitley comes to the US after two bruising weeks in New Delhi, headlined by a scathing attack by former finance minister Yashwant Sinha on how Jaitley has made a "mess" of the economy and then the simmering discontent across the business community on the complications of the newly minted Goods and Services Tax.

From the Columbia platform, Jaitley claimed that demonetisation did not lead to a "single incident of public unrest" but only "inconvenience".

"News reporters asked people lining up if it was an inconvenience and they said yes but they also said it’s a good move", Jaitley said.

Professor Jagdish Bhagwati, doyen of right wing economics and a votary of the demonetisation, lauded Jaitley’s answers.

“He spoke really well, he went into great detail”, Bhagwati said. Bhagwati asked Jaitley the first question on Aadhaar and how it affects right to privacy after the FM's prepared remarks delivered to a small but high powered audience on the 15th floor of the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs.

Jaitley is working on an 'India via Ivy League' thread that's gaining currency among politicos as India hurtles towards the next general election. Before Jaitley, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi was in the US in September and spoke at Berkeley and Princeton, taking on the ruling BJP in a fairly non-Rahul Gandhi style.

Countdown 2019 has begun at lecterns around the world.

Amethi, Ahmedabad, Harvard, Columbia, Vadnagar - it's all fair game.

Related links: Jagdish Bhagwati says Amartya Sen "rushed in" on demonetisation

A chat with economist Vivek Dehejia on India's economy

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Updated Date: Oct 11, 2017 07:25:45 IST

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