Posted by: qmaxim | May 26, 2014

My unsolicited advice to Narendra Modi – top 13 things he should do

On 26 of May, Mr Narendra Modi will take the oath of office as the 15th prime minister of India. He has won unprecedented emphatic mandate to govern India for the next 5 years.Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) of which he is the prime minister elect, has won clear majority on its own in the LokSabha (the lower house of the parliament),
a first for any party in  the last 30 years.

Many newspapers writers, foreign economists, TV commentators & investment gurus have now gone overboard in giving advice as what he should (or should not) be doing.
Until recently, some of them have been his bitterest critics & their constant carping for months seemed to have no effect on how people voted.

Here is my unsolicited advice – top 13 things he should do. By no means, this is an exhaustive list.

  1. Many government departments exist simply because of historical reasons. For example, when government had monopoly (during infamous license permit raj) over the economy, Steel ministry was all important for developing Steel industry in India. Steel is no longer government monopoly but still this department exists. First thing to do is to ask each department to justify the reason for its existence.
  2. Many government departments share their role with independent regulators in many sectors of the economy but continue to function as before. It is imperative that their mission and vision is clearly defined. For example, civil aviation ministry and DGCA the aviation regulator operate in roughly the same space. It is important to have top class regulators, some of them are not up to the mark. For example, aviation regulator DGCA needs overhaul.
  3. Most departments work in silos, it is common to hear ’our department is of the view’. In many cases papers shuttle between departments for months before any decision is taken. They should be forced to work in teams, take collective responsibility, work in time bound manner and thus speed up decision making.
  4. When the results of election started pouring in & it was clear that BJP is set to win, it was reported that large number of babus sought transfer and previous regime granted their wishes. Probably, many want to avoid time bound work environment which the new government is likely to implement. Role of each person should be clearly defined (i.e. who does what) which does not seem to be the case now.
  5. Most departments don’t seem to have neither clearly defined list of services nor the time frame in which they have to be delivered. Even routine tasks such as appointing persons to positions are delayed sometimes for months. Sakaala (on time in Kannada) scheme of Karnataka government is a good starting point.
  6. There seems to be no systems thinking. If something goes wrong enquiry commission is setup and nothing is heard of this till one more similar event occurs & then one more commission is setup and so on. A glaring example is terrible flying record of Indian Air force; force has lost quarter of aircraft in the last 5 years no action has been taken to fix the problem apart from enquiries ordered after each incident.
  7. Each time government sets out to do new things or a new entity is setup – same set of people are involved namely – politicians, judges, ex- govt officials or Indian administrative services officials. This leads to group think and imperfect solutions with people more interested in protecting each other’s interests. Fresh thinking can be brought about by bringing in diverse set of people from industry, economists, management experts and others. Same goes for the cabinet.
  8. Most government departments don’t have competency in managing large
    projects. One example is now stalled ambitious highway building project. Way to go is public / private partnership with involvement of local people.
  9. It myth that investment has to come from foreign direct investment for the economy to grow. There is no dearth of funds with the local investors they are simply not investing due to bottlenecks in the economy. Nobody is going to invest more money if current investments are stuck. In the recent past, most of the foreign funds have gone to stock market, bonds market or taking control of successful Indian companies rather than sectors which are desperate for funding like for example infrastructure.
  10. There is huge untapped potential and big growth opportunities sectors such as tourism, infrastructure, mining, transportation, manufacturing (high tech or low tech), public services, defense manufacturing, retail & electronics hardware. Most of these don’t require expensive new technology, lots of money & or external expertise – government has to provide enabling environment. These have huge employment potential as well.
  11. Many of the public sector undertakings are well run, are billion dollar enterprises & have big potential. Apart from diluting the share holding to reduce budget deficit, very little has been done to make them better. There is a confusion between the role of ministry controlling them and their respective management boards. Many of the executive positions remain unfilled for months & political interference is rampant in appointments. Government should follow hands-off policy with their boards made accountable for their performance.
  12. It is easier in the long run to constitute something completely new rather than making radical change in the existing structure. When authorities were trying to force Bombay stock exchange (which is  one of the oldest stock exchanges in the world ) to computerize, entrenched vested interests fought it tooth and nail for years. Ultimately, entirely new, fully computerized stock exchange ( NSE) was setup which overtook the old exchange & continues to dominate the market to this day.
  13. It is important to fight corruption, but to start with, focus should be on preventing it from happening now onward rather than digging up dirt of the previous regime. Clearly defined rules, transparent working, no leeway to make arbitrary decisions, time bound delivery, computerization, prosecuting the big fish goes a long way in achieving this. Example should be made of few corrupt big fish rather than going after minions .
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Responses

  1. Very good ideas Jagadish. Well written as well.


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