Sunday, August 24, 2014

Productivity over Commission

The recent announcement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding the dissolution of “Planning Commission” acted as a catalyst in making the discussion and debates possible to ponder about relevant existence of the institution.

A think tank which was structured to guide the way for government in policy formulation and push reforms, slowly but steadily lost its sheen in this ultra-fast paced world, in terms of economic and technological changes. There have been questioned raised about its relevance in today’s time and so any major shuffle in the commission’s structure was jinxed by political procrastination but the majority backed Prime Sevak bit the bullet and scrapped the commission.

What did the commission fail to acknowledge that it became redundant? What did it ignore and why? Author Shankkar Aiyar hits the nail with his explanation “Centre allocated resources, the Planning Commission monitored/regulated/directed the deployment, and the states were tasked with implementation. The Centre had no responsibility to deliver, the commission no power to enforce and the states who had little say or incentive felt dumped upon. The Planning Commission represented a multi-polar disorder in the structure of governance.

More than the Planning Commission’s execution failure it was the emergence of Individual States as a Distinct Business Unit which marred the long term plans laid down by the commission. From Gujarat to West Bengal and from Himachal Pradesh to Kerala each state found its mojo back and started attracting Domestic and International investors to invest on their land. And in the process, each state demanded autonomy in the execution of funds and the way resources should be utilized. The commission which laid the Five Year Plans could not accommodate these rapid changes in their long term plans for each state. This slowly started acting as a major glitch in the individual states’ working. Marring public sentiment and bureaucracy delayed the investment cycles. This was for me the imperative reason of why the Commission could not survive. When the world is changing every year how can a too long 5 year plan mechanism work in a growing country like ours.

Now is the time to look forward and yet again don’t establish another bureaucratic structure which would hamper the states or the Center to function effectively. Rather, this is the time to focus more on productivity of each Act or Policy which is being framed or implemented. There is news that a similar structure of what China has, called as “National Development and Reforms Commission” is being envisaged in India too, having complete autonomy and constitutional authority. But, I personally feel that again we would waste our precious time in miring another structure in political logjam by doing the same.

Rather, we should follow what Australia’s Productivity Commission does, reiterated recently by Economist Ajay Shah, focus more on productivity and not forcing upon its decision on the government. Encourage discussions within the contours of the government authorities and let the consent be earned. Don’t constitutionalize the structure so that it doesn't get dragged into the patchy waters of where the likes of CBI and CAG find themselves today. Don’t politicize the new structure. Use it as a catalyst that encourages Inclusive ideas for Inclusive Growth.