Planning Commission replacement by year-end
A body of technocrats, industrialists, chief ministers and development experts will likely be set up by the year-end to serve as the government’s primary policy advisory council, replacing the planning commission.
The multi-member think-tank would have sufficient state representation in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s focus on “cooperative federalism” in long-term perspective planning, a source said.
The new institution will likely be modelled on the lines of China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
In his Independence Day speech, Modi had announced the government’s intent to replace the planning commission with a new body, bringing the curtains down on the 64-year-old institution founded on the former Soviet Union’s command-style development model. The panel had in recent years come under increased scrutiny with experts questioning its role in a market-economy model where private enterprises are the primary growth engines.
Under the new structure, the National Development Council, which was set up in 1952 and acts as the apex body for all development matters and centre-state relations, could undergo a change.
The finance ministry will likely take the final call on annual gross budgetary support for various central schemes and the states’ annual plans, which till last year was decided by the plan panel.
The new think-tank will be “truly” national with three to four expert members nominated by the Centre and the rest by the states. Its functions, however, will be limited to preparing a long-term plan for the country and recommending policy changes to the government to improve the outcome of the huge welfare expenditure.
But, it will have some power to appraise the impact of government schemes and recommend remedial action to the ministries to improve outcome.
The yet-to-be named panel will likely have a structure similar to China’s NDRC, which is responsible for collecting, processing, and providing economic information to other government departments and enterprises. It will have a secretariat in Yojana Bhawan under direct supervision of the prime minister’s office.
The Centre is keen to fill the body with domain experts from outside the government and not the bureaucrats who dominated the plan panel during the 10 years of the UPA. It wants a senior politician acceptable to most state governments to head the think-tank, sources said.
The body will have specific terms of reference for its work and will be expected to conduct extensive research on both social and economic issues. These reports will be discussed at bigger platforms with the representation of all states to make national policy-making an inclusive process, a source said.
Consultations with experts on perspective planning were held in September and some of their suggestions would find resonance in the final shape of the body.