Published: 29th March 2021
Sanjeev Sanyal at ThinkEdu: We are happy for reforms to not quite work in the beginning, no ego about it
The Principal Economic Adviser in the Ministry of Finance was in a conversation with former Planning Commission member Arun Maira at TNIE's ThinkEdu Conclave
It is almost utopic to expect every reform to work out positively immediately. However, Sanjeev Sanyal, Principal Economic Adviser in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India says that the government is not egoistic, but is rather happy that the reforms do not work well in the beginning. He adds that the Narendra Modi-led government instead focuses on "fixing the errors on the go". He was in conversation with management guru and former planning commission member Arun Maira and author and columnist Shankkar Aiyar at The New Indian Express' ThinkEdu Conclave 2021.
"We are happy for reforms to not quite work in the beginning and then fix it along the way. We have no ego about this. We will watch, we will work, we will make tweaks along the way and make it work. We are not of the opinion that just because we announced something it will work in one shot. In fact, the 1991 reforms needed a lot of tweaking over the subsequent decades. We are in it for the long haul. We recognise that these reforms 2.0 will take some time. We recognise that they will be pushed back but we have to be willing to carry on. There will be moments where some of the pushback is legitimate and you will have to accommodate. The issue is to be clear about what we are doing in the medium and long run, introduce the changes and tweak when necessary," said Sanyal.
Sanyal also sounded positive when he spoke about how well the economic reforms and COVID response strategies have been received by the states. "Many things have worked rather well with the states. Almost 99 per cent of the time, the coordination between the centre and the state in terms of COVID response was rather good. Otherwise, it wouldn't have worked at all. With all the whining that happens over the GST council, the states have the majority of the votes in the council. There are many things that work," he noted.
Sanyal also touched upon why the Planning Commission was shut down by the current Modi government. "I'm not of a view that we should have a great grand view and just implement. That is precisely why we shut down the Planning Commission," he said.
A former member of the now-defunct commission, Maira said that he was brought into it by the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, to find out how to produce results faster. "I was asked by Dr Manmohan Singh to explore what needs to change in the way we are going about planning and reforming so that we can produce results faster. The speed is important. Reforms and policymaking are iterative processes," he said.
Someone who opined that today's world is at a VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) stage, Maira said that a permanent change seems like an oxymoron in it. "What we need is to reform the process by which we have been making reforms, to make that process adapted to a VUCA world where change will be constant and complex," he said.