ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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One More Paper Exercise

THE Planning Commission has apparently Iearnt nothing from past experience. Its Approach Paper for the Ninth Plan (1997-98 to 2001-02) harps on the same time-worn, mechanical Harrod-Domar type of macro-economic relationships and, based on them, presents alternative GDP growth targets together with estimates of the required saving and investment rates and implicit incremental capital-output ratio The document, just like the ones prepared for the earlier plans, fails to present a plan-frame linking the plan programmes and targets to policies and institutional apparatuses. If the Planning Commission believes that the incorporation of impressive numbers of overall and sectoral growth into the Ninth Plan will revive popular faith in planning in the face of the onslaught of liberalisation and globalisation, it is sadly mistaken. What the Commission needed to do, and what it has not done, was to engage in a critical reassessment of its role in the context of the vastly changed national and international economic environment and set out a path of development more relevant to the needs and capabilities of this country than that being sought to be forcibly imposed by the so-called economic reformers. The Commission, it is well known, was assigned no role in the shaping of the economic reforms dictated by the stabilisation and structural adjustment programmes of the IMF and the World Bank. What was worse, given the actual record of the type of economic planning pursued in the country, no one seemed to seriously mind this complete marginalisation of the Planning Commission during the Narasimha Rao-Munmohan Singh regime. The Commission's own response, despite all the sound arguments for holding that our particular brand of reforms hinged to free markets, free trade, stable money and globalisation were likely, at this stage of the country's development, to aggravate the accumulated problems of poverty, unemployment, rural- urban, inter-regional and inter-class disparities and even technological backwardness, was thoroughly spineless. The 'discussion paper' it prepared in early 1994 in effect cut the ground from under economic planning by its mealy-mouthed assertion that "in the absence of a free market the system becomes blind to costs and efficiency and leads to enormous wastage of resources and ultimately in the wasting of growth potential". It was instead content to seek a role for itself in terms of proposing certain socially desirable objectives in an essentially market-driven economic set-up. This is, of course, what the Commission has been doing from the very beginning; what has been missing is a role for it in working out how the desired social goals were in fact to be achieved. The Commission's planning exercises by and large remained an academic activity even as different government departments.

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