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No difference with ministries in pushing reforms, says Plan panel

Apr 29 2014, 08:28 IST
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Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia
SummaryMontek Singh Ahluwalia responds to IE report ‘Plan Panel to PM: Ministries dragging feet on policy action led to slowdown’.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia responds to the report ‘Plan Panel to PM: Ministries dragging feet on policy action led to slowdown’published in The Indian Express on April 28.

I am writing to protest the report in The Indian Express of April 28 by your correspondent Priyadarshi Siddhanta which grossly distorts what was said in a note I had submitted to the Prime Minister as a background for a forthcoming informal meeting with Members of the Planning Commission. I have carefully considered whether to respond but I feel the following points need to be made.

First, the report says the Planning Commission has held Ministries, including Finance and Railways as responsible for the slowdown in the growth rate. This is a totally false statement since the note was not a review of the economy: it was an attempt to list innovative things which the Planning Commission initiated in UPA I and II, which were different from what was done in the past. In fact it explicitly stated that routine work of the Planning Commission such as “reviewing Plan performance”, are not dealt with.

Second, the Press report blames the Finance Ministry for delays in getting the debt funds idea implemented. This is another distortion. The note describes the idea as innovative and only says that we had to persuade the Finance Ministry and “once they were persuaded, it took them time to persuade RBI and SEBI to make necessary regulatory changes”. This was not a complaint, but just an explanation of the process that needed to be followed and why changing regulations therefore takes time. I noted that in the end the Finance Ministry succeeded in making the change. Surely you agree that due process is important especially in the financial sector. Had the changes been quickly made, there might have been complaints that government acted in haste!

Third, the news report wrongly gives the impression that we have complained against MoPNG’s defense of the gas price decision. In fact, the point being made was that the Ministry is defending the gas price decision (which the Planning Commission strongly supports) on the merits of the case, but without reference to the fact that it is fully in line with established energy policy. That policy was never challenged, either when it was approved by the Cabinet or when incorporated in the Twelfth Plan and approved by NDC. We need a holistic approach to Energy Policy and we need to get its rationale widely understood. Your news report explains why that is so difficult.

Finally, I did say that Members of the Commission acting as Chairmen of Committees provide new ideas, many of which are not readily accepted. Again, this was not presented as a complaint — no government readily accepts all new ideas — they need to be completely weighed. I was only pointing out that the Commission, through its Members, has established mechanisms for injecting many new ideas into government which otherwise would not have come about.

I could go on, but I hope this letter, if you prominently publish it, will persuade your readers that you were less than fair. You would have done better to do a serious piece on the note itself and the various innovative steps listed therein to judge whether we have indeed been innovative, rather than rushing to publish something which it looks as if we are secretly complaining against other Ministries.

As a regular reader of your paper I must point out, more in sadness than anger, that you are in serious danger of abandoning the “journalism of courage” and sinking into the “journalism of leakage and innuendo”.

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