Can be better

Can be better

Financial Express , Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Two of the brightest public economists of India occupy two of the most powerful positions in the current government. It is only fair to assess their performance, not against their own goals, the Common Minimum Programme, but against their potential.

Compared to the potential their performance is very poor indeed. In none of the major acts of the government, from replacing plastic cups with kullahads in railways to the Employment Guarantee Scheme to the Right to Information Act, there is much influence of the two economists. In many cases, straightforward economic logic argues against the measures undertaken.

Since the government depends on the support of the Left parties for the passage of Bills in Parliament, one may give the benefit of doubt to the economists on the Bills actually passed. But, there is absolutely no excuse for failing to use the powerful public platform to articulate and argue for continuation, and in some cases, initiation of reforms.Neither the PM nor the finance minister has used the power of their office to create and lead public discourse on economic and social reforms. It is precisely because that they are unable to do much within Parliament that a public dialogue on reforms becomes that much more critical.

In my eyes, despite legislative failures or compromises, they would serve the country well if they use the bully pulpit effectively to speak their minds and hearts to sustain a serious public discourse on economic and political reforms. The best place to start that discourse is education reforms-discuss the proposed Free and Compulsory Education Bill openly and frankly, as economists.

The writer is president, Centre for Civil Society