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1 February 2017 Editorial

 

1 FEBRUARY 2017

Cricket’s new order

The Supreme Court has named a four-member Committee of Administrators to run the affairs of the Board of Control for Cricket in India as part of a continuing judicial exercise to reform the way the body is administering the game. While few will sympathise with the BCCI office-bearers who were removed for defying the court’s well-intended reforms, there is no escaping the feeling that it should have found a way of reforming the body without appointing its own administrators. Only one of the four appointees has played representative cricket, and it is arguable whether a public auditor, a cricket chronicler or a financial sector executive are the most suitable candidates to administer a body that oversees a competitive sport. In a country where there is no shortage of cricket experts and where many have the experience of having put bat to ball at some point in their lives, it is a glib assumption that a combination of eminence in some field and a passion for the game are sufficient to run a national sports body. The court could have asked the Board to come up with suggestions to draw up a committee of interim administrators from among former players and administrators with an established connect with the game. Also, by appointing a panel of its own, the court has rendered itself vulnerable to the charge of massive judicial overreach.

There is an undoubted element of public interest in the manner in which the highest court has engaged itself with the game’s administration in recent years. The objectives were laudable:

1.      cleansing the administration;

2.      bridging the credibility deficit built by reform-resistant administrators; and

3.      revamping a system fraught with conflicts of interest and unchecked commercialisation.

Last year, the court declared that running cricket in India is a public function. Many felt the intervention was needed to keep the exploitation of cricket’s commercial potential honest, and run the game in accordance with its tradition and values. Then came the panel headed by former Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha and its sweeping recommendations for reform. The Supreme Court accepted most of the recommendations and made them binding on the BCCI. Thereafter, the reluctance shown by the BCCI to accept the Lodha panel reforms led to its president Anurag Thakur being held prima facie guilty of contempt of court. The situation is ripe for a new set of administrators and the next election, which will be overseen by the four-member committee, will throw them up. The big question, of course, is whether this will amount to a mere replacement of one set of office-bearers with another, or bring about a real and systemic change in the way cricket in this country is run.

Demonetisation’s long shadow

The Economic Survey presented on the eve of the Union Budget has been dominated by a singular action of the government. As Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian stated, “To deify or demonise demonetisation that is the difficult question the world is asking, to which the survey tries to respond.” Describing the November 8 decision to withdraw high-value currency notes as a radical governance-cum-social engineering measure” aimed at punitively raising the cost of illicit activities, Mr. Subramanian and his team acknowledge the complexities in assessing its potential impact as well as the lack of historical precedent to make reliable predictions. The Survey, however, emphatically asserts that while there have been short-term costs to the economy, which would need to be expeditiously addressed, there will be long-term benefits. Real GDP growth in the current fiscal, the Survey projects, will see a likely reduction by one quarter to half a percentage point relative to the baseline of about 7% as a result of the demand shock triggered by demonetisation. The Survey argues that any comparison with last fiscal’s 7.6% pace would be “inappropriate” as among the other factors that influenced growth this year was that global oil prices stopped declining, lessening the updraught that soft energy prices lend to the economy. It contends that the latest growth estimates of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund — the bank trimmed its forecast to 7% from 7.6% and the IMF by 1 percentage point to 6.6%, both citing demonetisation as reason — reflect a higher baseline assumption and ought to be compared only on the extent of change in estimate.

Devoting a whole chapter to demonetisation, the Survey recommends fast, demand-driven remonetisation, further tax reforms, including bringing land and real estate under the ambit of the Goods and Services Tax, and reducing tax rates and stamp duties. It cautions against tax authorities turning overzealous. It flags the risks that Brexit and the U.S. election result pose to the world economic order, and to India’s economy. The prospect of “shifts in the direction of isolationism and nativism” could threaten the global market for goods, services and labour. The Survey conservatively projects growth for the coming fiscal at 6.75%-7.5%, with a caveat that lingering effects from demonetisation, oil prices and the possible rise of trade protectionism could jeopardise the forecast.

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