In perhaps the first effort of its kind, senior officers of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) engaged in intensive brainstorming over macroeconomic management at an off-site retreat in Surajkund on the outskirts of Delhi last weekend.
Shorn of the hierarchical barriers that inhibit communication in the government, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said maintaining and accelerating economic growth should be central to all the work of the DEA.
“The finance minister, who participated in a special two-hour session, admitted that the ministry does not have control over the entire economic agenda because of democratic structures and coalition politics, but officers must capitalise on that part of the agenda on which they do have control, such as driving the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management targets,” an official said. Chidambaram told the officers, including Finance Secretary D Subba Rao, that written communication needs to be precise, brief, in content and with sharply delineated positions for getting decisions from him. He said officers must be on top of the subjects that they deal with.
There was focus on collective and shared responsibility. Officers typically define their work in terms of ‘tasks’ without a full understanding of how the tasks they perform may be contributing to the department’s overall goals. “This ‘in silo’ style of functioning results in people developing straitjacketed perspectives,” an official said.
Former RBI Governor Bimal Jalan and Co-chairman of the Board of Infosys Nandan Nilakani delivered special lectures.