Sunday, June 1, 2014

Plain simple good governance is the low hanging fruit

Much of the debate in India talks about policy reforms and innovations to restore the country's economic vibrancy. I think this both misses the perspective and also betrays an ignorance of how stuff gets done.

What we need to prioritize is on plain simple good governance - get the basics right. An example of this is the Project Monitoring Group (PMG) set up within the Cabinet Secretariat to expedite clearances for large projects. What it does is good old rigorous monitoring (beware : much of current fad of online monitoring is just the creation of an online work-flow and portal, with little of actual monitoring). The bang for the buck is immense - $90 bn worth investments being expedited. And all this with little innovation or reform. Much the same could be done for improving business environment and a host of other things which only require logistical activities - construction, clearances etc. Heck, this is what bureaucracies are supposed to do!
This is not to say that reforms are not required. Far from it. In fact, these $90 bn worth investments will soon run into problems in the absence of complementary conditions - credit an land availability, electricity supply, skilled manpower, export/import linkages etc. This would require reforms like restructuring/recapitalizing banks, deepening debt markets and so on. But there are too many low-hanging fruits that are lying un-plucked, even as we cry hoarse on difficult (politically and administratively) reforms.


KP said...

Dear Gulzar,

I think this is a neat little post.

There seems to be no dearth of confidence just now, and that is the way it should be.

I think in many small ways - governance as integrity - is what is being conveyed. Particularly the reference to taking decisions without fear of making mistakes.

I hope there will be a move to revive genuine research and innovation - particularly in the Non-IT space - heavy engineering and material sciences - and creation of newer agencies rather than attempting to revive the mediocrity that passes off as government led innovation (except space and atomic research, it would appear).

And, if by reforms we are referring to the financialization of the economy - I hope that it is slower rather than faster.

But, if this is about more intelligently and stringently devised and enforced regulations - that make the regulators do their job diligently - particularly in the areas of banking / safety / pollution / consumer protection - we should welcome it.

I hope we can finally get down to making proximate mechanisms of government agencies responsible for reacting to the proximate problems they were designed to address / mitigate. This can for a start allow us to watch / participate in a better quality of NEWS / debate - that is not a rehash of "we are the problem that we seek to address" - that is endlessly trotted out as some kind of obtuse justification for any government agency's inertness.

In short a government that works - from the PM and right down to the street level bureaucrat.

regards, KP.

Gulzar Natarajan said...

Thanks KP for these thoughtful comments. I agree completely.

The challenge is in your last line ("a government that works"). Getting the street level bureaucrat (and a few layers up) to work is the challenge. And I feel that we are yet to realize the scale of atrophy that exists at that level... the recent example of water release from the himachal dam is just the latest example...

Vijay Sharma said...

I am becoming yr fan quickly. I want you to suggest something for a particular city, i wish, it wd be kolkata. Apart frm yr write up in express, where to find yr comprehensive blue print on urban planning. .vijay sharma, kolkata

Get Your Love Back By Vashikaran said...

Thanks KP for these thoughtful comments. I agree completely.