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

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Using Public Procurement Strategically

Lessons from the Pandemic

The article examines policy decisions and practices in public procurement in India during the pandemic, and finds that bureaucracy could not use public procurement strategically and relied upon archaic and centralised management of procurement to (mis)handle the pandemic. The article also offers some lessons from China’s procurement designs and calls for a major reform in this sector in India.


The author acknowledges the grant from the China–India Visiting Scholars Fellowship for this research.

Despite its overwhelming size and significance, in India, the topic of public procurement suffers from a deafening silence from scholars and academics. Indian public procurement constitutes about 25% of the gross domestic product (GDP) (the global average is 10%15%), with consequences for publicprivate partnerships, government service provision, rent-seeking, scaling of small firms, and even distribution (Hazarika and Jena 2017; Goyal 2019). In fact, the poll promises of the political parties rely heavily on the ability of the government to do effective procurement. Yet, the field has escaped any major reform.

In this article, we show how the pandemics severity in India may well be attributed, at least partially, to the unresponsive and rigid procurement policies. For comparison, we will examine the role that public procurement played in China, and argue for a more strategic view of public procurement in India. I also hope to add to the burgeoning field of public procurement in emergencies (Atkinson and Sapat 2012; Racca 2013; Buor 2019; Drabkin and Thai 2007), when crucial supplies may be hit, and governments often need to creatively interpret procedures that are otherwise rigid in routine, and remove procurement bottlenecks that lead to painful delays. In the wake of the severe stress on supplies of healthcare goods and services on account of the raging pandemic, procurement policies are being recalibrated across the world.

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Published On : 17th Jan, 2024

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