Should the government engage foreign consultants?

When the government reconstituted the Planning Commission, we wrote the Commission be headed by some practical politician of repute. There are very practical reasons for making these suggestions. The previous Vajpayee government, knowingly or unknowingly nominated many lightweights, some plainly unworthy, some plain party enthusiasts.
So, the Planning Commission gradually went on its historic decline. What a pity! Men like Nehru and Mahalanobis visualized a very active, participative role for the Commission in drawing and reordering development priorities.

The Planning Commission under Mr. Ahluwalia. The only qualification is his closeness to the Prime Minister and his reputation as an economic bureaucrat.
The other members are also seem to us really lightweight, no personal offence intended against any individuals. The academic men can’t be bold and practical. Only men of some public standing and public achievement can infuse some confidence and trust among the elite and the public at large. Men who have made name and fame as achievers in the new economy development, IT titans could command some attention.

If you don’t dare to have big men from outside the academic or government service background, then you don’t dare to think big and think in radical ways, right? We are really sorry to make this remark. Under Manmohan Singh Government, we don’t see much boldness to look at India’s some of the big problems like agriculture, rural development, even new economy models like IT development and IT applications in some of the governance paradigms. Or, are we making some irrelevant criticisms. We invite readers views in this regard.

Time is running fast, the reports of farmers distress coming in daily, in AP alone we see large farmers distress. In spite of CM Dr. Reddy’s brave efforts, the farm distress doesn’t abate! The latest news is about the life insurance sector crisis, thousands of farmers insurance policies lapsed, hundreds of crores of sum insured proving a big waste!
Don’t the men and women in the Central Government respond to this distress? There is no indication that part from a fleeting visit by the PM and the President, there is some indication that there is some serious policy initiatives in Delhi.

Now, to crown the irony, comes news about foreign Consultants appointed by the Planning Commission. Many foreign development banks, multilateral agencies are finding a place in the Commission’s variety Consultative Groups. The private MNC Consultancy company, Mckinsey is finding its key personnel serving on the various panels.

It is reported in the press that the Tenth Five Year Plan would be reviewed by these experts. The mid-term appraisal of the Tenth Plan (2002-07) would be done by these experts. How can private companies can be appointed on such a body like the Planning Commission without the matter being debated as a high policy change by the Cabinet or the Parliament. The Mckinsey’s two men are on Agriculture Consultancy Group, Mr. Gautam Kumra is on the Technical and Higher Education Group, another Mckinsey man, Mr. Vipul Yuli is on Transport, on Power and Energy.

Rightly, many civil society groups have opposed these developments. The government must remove these outside private consultants from such sensitive issues like mid-term appraisals and even providing key policy inputs.

Obviously, these banks would bring in pressures to go for more suspect privatization moves. Also the Mckinsey is widely known to have given much wrong advice to AP government. Its so-called expertise on food processing industry proved a disaster.

We leave it to the good sense of the Prime Minister to ponder over the moves that are highly disturbing and insulting to the national sentiments.


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