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Reimagining Public Policy in the Context of Emerging Global and Domestic Trends – IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

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Reimagining Public Policy in the Context of Emerging Global and Domestic Trends - IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

Mukul Asher

Introduction

It is a privilege to deliver the inaugural address for the Conference on Public policy Research, Pedagogy, and practice organized by the Delhi School of Public Policy and the Motilal Nehru College, University of Delhi. In any discipline, particularly in the social sciences and in professional programs, research, pedagogy, and practice need to be tailored to the emerging context and challenges which the discipline needs to help understand and address. The title of my address has the terms “Reimagining Public Policy”. It also stresses “Emerging Global and Domestic Trends”.

“Reimaging” implies a qualitative change in public policies with scale and focus on citizen-centric outcomes. An incremental change would not fit the notion of “reimaging”. Can’t use a 20th-century mentality to progress in the 21st century. If we don’t evolve, we will be left behind. “Speed and skill need of the hour“, as said by PM Narendra Modi

This address has many implications and suggestions on how public policy discipline needs to be reimagined to be more relevant in not only producing more employable graduates with both hard and soft skills but also raising the quality of public policy dialogue in India. This is an appropriate time for reimagining public policy discipline as in presenting the 2023-24 Union Government Budget, the Finance Minister stated that this is the first year of India’s Amrit Kaal, the 25-year period ending in 2047 when India will complete 100 years of independence.

In these 25 years, there are plans to reimagine India and its policy outcomes. PM Modi has articulated that the main purpose of ‘Amrit Kaal’ is to reduce economic disparities among the citizens of India, emancipate people residing in villages, make India more technically agile, and reduce dependence on the government. “While India has made rapid strides, there should be a ‘saturation’ of development and 100 per cent accomplishments with every village having roads, every family having a bank account, every eligible person having health insurance, card, and gas connection”.

Such reimaging in the Amrit Kaal Period requires reimaging public policy pedagogy, research, and practice as well. That such reimagining is being considered for other disciplines is indicated by the report that the government is seeking to align the way international relations are taught in universities with the changes in the country’s foreign policy. To bring about this synergy, EAM Jaishankar will speak to heads of the international relations dept of 40 universities.

Select Preliminaries with Application to Public Policy Discipline

PM Modi referring to the use of science in the modern-day, said, ‘Science is Universal and Technology is Local.’ Similarly, principles, techniques, etc., used in analysing public policies are universal, but their application must be undertaken in a way that is appropriate for the local context. This would involve embedding public policy discipline in India’s civilizational context. It is this inability and tendency to regard a framework (designed to aid thinking) as a blueprint (to be followed exactly) that have been major contributors to the ineffectiveness of many public policies. The above has significant implications for pedagogy, research and practice of public policies.

Sridhar Vembu

Sridhar Vembu (born 1968) is an Indian billionaire business magnate and the founder and CEO of ZohoCorporation. According to Forbes, he is the 55th richest person in India, with a net worth of USD $3.75 billion as of 2021. His two observations are worth mentioning here.

  1. Scientific method: First the data, then the analysis, third the policy implications, and finally the views
    My comments
    A public policy education must imbibe the nature of the scientific method among all participants, faculty and administrators included. With digital technology, data analysis and the basics of AI need to become an integral part of public policy curricula and projects and thesis sets as much as possible to demonstrate competence in numerical literacy.
  2. US-trained Indian economists reflect that flawed approach of naively elevating contextual US experience as universal economic law.

Local-context empirical studies and institutional and market structures relevant to public policy. Projects/thesis could be set to augment this aspect for India. Many government schemes have dashboards and extensive data to make this possible. Neglected areas, such as research on urban and rural bodies, could be given special emphasis.

Any scheme based on heredity is not only undemocratic but unspiritual’ ‘while the spirit of India can never die the social institutions which don’t embody it must be scrapped’ ‘caste injures the spirit of humanity and violates human dignity’.

President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Importance of selecting those in position of public leadership positions in all areas on merit. Rajeev Mantri has argued that:

“Among the reasons India is on a strong footing today is that the leaders of many key institutions and offices across government and the private sector are self-made individuals. They are rooted, smart, driven leaders who have risen to the top through a competitive process.”

Public Policy Examples of need to change hereditary-like practices: Judicial reform, particularly the collegial system; system of reservations—rethink?, evolving political parties not so extensively based on Parivar -wad.
Significant implications for public policy pedagogy, teaching, and research

“ A democracy can flourish only if rights & duties are equally balanced. Rights of citizens are being protected, but duties are yet to be enforced effectively,”: Madras HC says while stating that due to the imbalance between the enforcement of rights and duties, democracy adversely affected. Public Policy Schools can contribute to a greater balance between rights and responsibilities in public policies.

Sustainable development requires a sustainable lifestyle.

Dr S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister, India

-Dr S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister, India

This is very relevant for the discussion on the environment. If a person goes in the car to protest at a pro-environment gathering, is that consistent behaviour?

Guess what’s John Kerry’s Twitter handle? It’s @ClimateEnvoy In emotive issues like climate change, public policy schools have particular responsibility to uphold good science and scientific method.

Global and Domestic Development

Demography will have profound geo-economic and geo-strategic implications. The figure below is best regarded as one scenario, perhaps an extreme one.

Screenshot 2023 03 18 at 4.33.42 PM

It has been argued that VUCA world is increasingly being recognized now, even though VUCA world has existed for a long time, but its specifics differ depending on the time period and context. Reimagining is needed for public policy pedagogy, research and teaching to manage in a VUCA world.

Screenshot 2023 03 18 at 4.35.12 PM

Other Global Developments

First, globally the term ‘fragmentation’ as opposed to ‘globalization’ is increasingly used. The term is a consequence of ‘friend-shoring’, expanding economic and security engagements among countries with similar values. As S. Gurumurthy has observed, safety and confidence in partners are long-term cheapness. How can India as a reliable partner, take advantage of the fragmentation. Which will be a medium-term process.

Second, there is the weaponization of economic, finance, regulatory arrangements, technology capabilities and others. India must develop capabilities to not only protect itself against such weaponization but develop willingness and capabilities to use the weaponization process where necessary.

Third, global growth and global trade are not only expected to be subdued and more volatile but also exhibit weaker relationships than in the past. India will need to generate high sustained growth, increase its share of world trade, world GDP, and global stock market capitalization in this environment, and progress towards gradual convertibility of the Indian Rupee; and its greater use in bilateral trade.

Arvind Virmani has argued that in the 19th century, the commanding heights of the economy were goods. In the 20th century, they were services like finance. In the 21st century, they will be technology & technology services. India has scope to expand its services trade, but a reimagining of the services sector will need to undertake. It is even feasible for India’s service exports to exceed its goods exports in the future.

Screenshot 2023 03 18 at 4.38.57 PM
-PM Modi

Social media risk has become a significant risk for all stakeholders in the public policy process. And merits inclusion in the public policy curriculum.

Select Domestic Trends for Public Policies

First, there is a major shift from entitlement to empowerment. This shift is expected to enhance the importance of merit in all areas of the economy and society. This will hopefully lower the weight given to dynastic and pariwar-wadi-related factors. This shift is also expected to encourage individual members of households to improve their conditions through their own efforts and entrepreneurship, albeit in an environment where physical, digital, and outcome-oriented governance increases become more prevalent.

The 2023-24 Budget has strengthened this shift. Second, India’s Minister of External Affairs, Dr S. Jaishankar, has persuasively argued that Indians must liberate themselves from the colonial mindsets as this is an essential requirement for India to progress towards becoming a developed nation by 2047. This essential requirement is reflected in the 2023-24 and other policy proposals.

Third, there is a serious argument for using laws (and shaping regulations and standards, both domestically and internationally, to gain a national advantage. Europe, the UK, USA have been using laws and regulations as major instruments to advance their interests. How can India begin to be a player in shaping global regulations and standards?

Including this aspect requires at least elective courses in Science
Technology and Public Policy, Global Economic and Political Dynamics, and Law, Regulation, and Economics. Faculty competent in these areas will need to be consciously developed as a part of reimagining Public policy.

Reimagining Transport

“The aluminium body of the Vande Bharat Express will be one of its most notable features. This lightweight material provides several benefits over traditional steel body trains,” added Mallya, General Manager of Integral Coach Factory (ICF). He also mentioned that aluminium is lighter than steel, which means that the train is more fuel-efficient and produces fewer emissions. This is particularly important in India, where the railways are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. The use of aluminium in the train’s body will help to reduce its carbon footprint significantly.

US companies re-examining Chinese supply chains – Head of France’s CMA CGM cautions businesses are seeking alternative freight routes
as political relations sour. India should build ports in Andaman and Nicobar islands so India can become a competitor to Singapore, and we should also connect India through our Northeast with South East Asia, bypassing Malacca
straight.

Noida Airport In Its Entirety With Five Runways, Will Be The Biggest
Airport In Asia Having Passenger Capacity Of 225 Million

NIAL Chief

Reimagining Examples from Recent Public policies

India Used Bar Bell theory from the Finance Literature to Manage
Covid-19 Pandemic. A good example of understanding the local context and local needs.

Sanjeev Sanyal’s lecture at Rishihood university has a lot of insights on the VUCA world and how India used the bar Bell theory from finance to
successfully the Covid-19 pandemic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkdamNIgtBc

Planning and Policy Making in a VUCA World
Screenshot 2023 03 18 at 4.46.18 PM
The Barbell Strategy

Reimagining Labour Laws

Karnataka’s landmark labour reform that enables a flexible work regime to run production with two 12-hour shifts around the clock is set to advance Apple and Foxconn to advance Indian production plans.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.livemint.com/politics/policy/centre-embarks-on-vision-2047-plan-in-developed-economy-push11650564895517.htm

Originally from a slide show presented at the inaugural address for the Conference on Public policy Research, Pedagogy, and practice organized by the Delhi School of Public Policy and the Motilal Nehru College, University of Delhi.

Read more by the author: Good and Services Tax (GST) Collection: India’s progress towards ‘One Nation, One Sales Tax’

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