Push­ing Modi's Agenda

Niti Aayog has com­piled key plans of the Modi gov­ern­ment into a three-year ac­tion agenda, but its im­ple­men­ta­tion may run into rough weather

Business Today - - CONTENTS - By Joe C. Mathew

Ea year ago, the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice (PMO) asked the Na­tional In­sti­tu­tion for Trans­form­ing In­dia ( NITI Aayog), the apex gov­ern­ment think tank, to pre­pare three sets of doc­u­ment that crys­tallise Naren­dra Modi gov­ern­ment’s vi­sion for de­vel­op­ment into a con­crete ac­tion plan. The pa­pers be­ing drafted are a 15 year vi­sion doc­u­ment, a seven year strat­egy blue­print and a three year ac­tion plan.

In the last week of April, NITI pre­sented the three­year agenda first.

“We have tried to re­al­lo­cate the resources that are avail­able with us and fo­cus on pri­or­ity sec­tors like health, education, agri­cul­ture, ru­ral de­vel­op­ment and in­fra­struc­ture” says Arvind Pana­gariya, Vice Chair­man, NITI Aayog. In­her­ently, the three year ac­tion plan pro­poses to shift the com­po­si­tion of expenditure by al­lo­cat­ing a larger pro­porx­actly

tion of ad­di­tional rev­enues avail­able over time to high- pri­or­ity sec­tors. Thus, the share of non-de­vel­op­men­tal rev­enue expenditure – in to­tal rev­enue expenditure – would de­cline from 47 per­cent in 2015/16 to 41 per­cent in 2019/20. As a re­sult, the al­lo­ca­tion for health will see a jump from `30,000 crore in 2015/16 to ` 100,000 crore by 2019/ 20. Education spend will rise from ` 66,000 crore in 2015/ 16 to `1,12,000 crore in the next three years. Cap­i­tal expenditure in rail­ways and roads will shoot up from `40,000 crore to `1,18,000 dur­ing the same pe­riod. The change is equally strik­ing in agri­cul­ture and ru­ral de­vel­op­ment sec­tor – the pro­posal is to ex­po­nen­tially hike the al­lo­ca­tion from ` 1,03,000 crore to `2,16,000 crore in three years. The rev­enue stream has also been es­ti­mated. Both GST and de­mon­eti­sa­tion are ex­pected to power rev­enue gen­er­a­tion over the next few years. The changes will not sig­nif­i­cantly dent the gov­ern­ment’s fis­cal dis­ci­pline roadmap ei­ther.

In­dia had moved away from the

five year plan­ning struc­ture that was fol­lowed since in­de­pen­dence af­ter the Naren­dra Modi gov­ern­ment scrapped the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion and, in its place, set up NITI Aayog. The man­date of NITI was to adopt a plan­ning process with greater per­spec­tive, in­stead of the erst­while Plan­ning Com­mis­sion’s pre­scrip­tive plan and non-plan al­lo­ca­tion based ap­proach. The 12th and the last five year plan came to an end on March 31, 2017 and there was a need to have clar­ity on what the gov­ern­ment in­tends to pri­ori­tise in the short term. The ac­tion plan was the out­come of this think­ing.

The doc­u­ment does not re­strict it­self to the so­lu­tions it of­fers for the pri­or­ity sec­tors. It talks about the changes needed in the eco­nomic and so­cial ecosys­tem to trig­ger the over­all growth the coun­try needs. It high­lights the need to re­bal­ance the gov­ern­ment’s role in favour of public ser­vices and away from man­u­fac­tur­ing. It rec­om­mends re­forms in civil ser­vices and the elec­toral process. It touches upon ev­ery is­sue that the gov­ern­ment con­sid­ers im­por­tant, be it curb­ing black money, ex­pan­sion of tax base or syn­chro­niza­tion of elec­tions. The ac­tion agenda also dis­cusses the im­per­a­tive of education and skill de­vel­op­ment to fully har­vest In­dia’s de­mo­graphic div­i­dend. “We look for­ward 15 years down the lane, and say this is where we want In­dia to be. To get to there, we have to build up­wards from be­low. The build­ing blocks ( for this vi­sion) are what PM has al­ready re­ferred to you. Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas,” says Bibek De­broy, Mem­ber, NITI.

De­broy em­pha­sises that the idea is to en­sure ev­ery ci­ti­zen in the coun­try avails a min­i­mum level of gov­ern­ment ser­vices. Sim­i­larly, ev­ery en­tre­pre­neur must have a more be­nign busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment. “In the pur­suit of these goals, there are is­sues which we need to tackle. That is what these doc­u­ments are all about. The 15 year vi­sion dis­tills down to a seven year strat­egy doc­u­ment, which fur­ther dis­tills down to a three year ac­tion plan. The vi­sion doc­u­ment and strat­egy doc­u­ment are work in progress. The three year plan is still not a fi­nal doc­u­ment, and it will soon be in the public do­main”, adds De­broy.

The doc­u­ment has been shared with the chief min­is­ters of all states. It will be fi­nalised af­ter fur­ther stake­holder con­sul­ta­tion.

Af­ter all, 95 per­cent of In­dia’s na­tional in­come gen­er­a­tion hap­pens in the states. The key to the suc­cess of the ac­tion plan lies with get­ting

states on board.


In the hey­day of the erst­while Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, one of the ma­jor com­plaints the chief min­is­ters – and this in­cludes Prime Min­is­ter Modi too dur­ing his ten­ure at the helm in Gu­jarat – had a com­mon grouse. The per­ceived ‘high­hand­ed­ness’ of the Com­mis­sion. It was as if the States had to come to the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion with a ‘beg­ging bowl’ to get suf­fi­cient al­lo­ca­tions for their ear­marked pri­or­ity projects. It is a re­ver­sal of sorts now. With no pow­ers to al­lo­cate funds, NITI is more of an apex ad­vi­sor. “We have nei­ther car­rot, nor stick”, ad­mits De­broy. That makes it even more im­por­tant to ready an ‘ac­tion plan’ that the states want.

Pana­gariya says that the states’ in­puts were taken dur­ing the prepa­ra­tion of the draft it­self. How­ever, once the draft is fi­nalised, NITI mem­bers, in­clud­ing Pana­gariya, will visit all the states and Union Ter­ri­to­ries to help them carry out the pro­posed re­forms.

It’s also a fact that most of the sug­ges­tions – and there are at least 300 of them across sec­tors spread out in the 150 page doc­u­ment – are not en­tirely new. For in­stance, the agri­cul­tural re­forms that NITI talks about are al­ready be­ing dis­cussed in the coun­try. The le­gal re­forms it is ad­vo­cat­ing have al­ready be­gun in Ra­jasthan un­der NITI su­per­vi­sion. There are sev­eral such pro­grammes that are on­go­ing, or about to be launched in many states.

“A year ago, we had started the dis­cus­sion on land leas­ing laws. The re­sponse from the states is huge. NITI has solid ar­gu­ments. And if we are ca­pa­ble of per­sua­sion, we will be able to win over sev­eral of the states, if not all of them” says De­broy em­phat­i­cally.

From the Ganga Ac­tion Plan to Swachh Bharat, from the Na­tional Youth Pol­icy to the Na­tional Health Pol­icy, the draft three year ac­tion agenda moves along with the pri­or­ity schemes and flag­ship pro­grammes of the cen­tral gov­ern­ment. While it high­lights some state level pro­grammes as mod­els that can be adopted by other states, it also points out the pos­si­ble mea­sures that can make other ini­tia­tives more ef­fec­tive.

The ac­tion plan is a mix of cor­rec­tive mea­sures, new ideas and model pro­pos­als and statutes that can be tried else­where. If the NITI Aayog was set up to pro­vide a holis­tic struc­ture to the dozens of pro­grammes that the gov­ern­ment wants to im­ple­ment to achieve cer­tain lofty goals, it has made a good be­gin­ning. And if that is the case, the three year agenda is pro­vid­ing a clear view of the broad con­tours of the seven year strat­egy and the 15 year vi­sion of the gov­ern­ment. ~

“We have tried to re­al­lo­cate the resources that are avail­able with us and fo­cus on pri­or­ity sec­tors” Arvind Pana­gariya, Vice Chair­man, NITI Aayog

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