Planning for the future
Planning for the future, We can learn from nations that have realised the need for development beyond minor political conflicts, despite facing a...
We can learn from nations that have realised the need for development beyond minor political conflicts, despite facing a scarcity of talent. Economic growth of European nations like Finland, Poland and Hungary was slow and disturbing under the communist model, but they reinvented themselves with new systems.
As the Narendra Modi government completes 100 days in office, the Prime Minister seems keen on implementing far-reaching changes, phasing out the old and ushering in the new. One of the first things he did was to question the relevance of the Planning Commission - a question also asked by his predecessor Manmohan Singh in 2009.
The Commission's inability to keep pace with change has stood in the way of its primary responsibility – to act as the think-tank of high standards and futuristic vision, linked to the research and innovation council. A few eminent members even implied that there is too much economics within the panel; and almost negligible future orientation and management.
It is ironic India was more competitive before independence as the first industrial policy (1948), which could have put the country on a fast-track, vested powers with the government only, amplifying officialdom and reducing economic competitiveness. The panel's contribution is not denied but the approach was not visionary enough to create a great nation.
The lack of vision is evident in the incongruity of resource planning, state of monopoly, and ad-hocism in talent and diversity management. As a result, all the E's of nation's most essential systems –economy, education, environment and energy – are suffering from the ad-hoc systems of future planning and accountability, for example, the case of the University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education in the education sector. We can learn from nations that have realized the need for development beyond minor political conflicts, despite facing a scarcity of talent.
Economic growth of European nations like Finland, Poland and Hungary was slow and disturbing under the communist model, but they reinvented themselves with new systems. From a highly depressed economy with hardly any resources, Finland became a highly-developed nation within 20 years by forming the "Committee for the Future" with specific tasks and responsibilities.
Paula Tiihonen, its founding counsellor, told this author recently: "The Committee for the Future, where 17 parliamentarians themselves stake out policy lines for the future, is unique in the world as an institution. Many parliaments globally have adapted our model to reorganize their futures-related work. It is independent by nature of functioning."
Tiihonen added that the Committee for the Future is always serious and focused on the national agenda under political leadership. The Future Commission for India should structure itself on these lines and not try to accommodate all ministries, positions and party representatives.
In its new avatar, the commission shouldn't deal with issues related to states directly, for which the government should strengthen the Inter-State Council, Finance Commission and ministries for effective and efficient operations. Motivating states to create "The Future State Commissions" aligned with the central think-tanks can also reduce their dependence on the Centre.
This will also offer opportunity of inter-state cooperation as think-tanks may always engage in higher discussions than governments with a political ideology. The relevance is only justified and sustainable if it focuses on the framework and capacity-building of a development than the assistance model which contradicts the basic philosophy of development and subjects to incremental change only. This new thought demands a bigger role for science, technology and innovation. The call for change is a welcome move but caution equally necessary.