Why Public Policy Education is Essential in India

 

Mukul G. Asher

Professor of Public Policy

National University of Singapore

e-mail: mukul.asher@gmail.com

 

January 2007

T

HERE IS A growing recognition that for effective economic and social management aimed at improving quality of everyday life, the respective roles of public and the private sectors should be regarded as essentially complementary. This is particularly the case in India where relatively poor social and physical infrastructure, and inefficiencies in delivery of basic public services are currently a major constraint in transiting from 6 to 8 percent to 8 to 10 percent annual growth on a sustained basis.

 

With globalization, these complementarities are evident not just within the nation state but also internationally. As a result, there has been substantial widening of public-private interactions and partnerships. The complexity of formulating and implementing public policies has increased. Such complexity has also led to increasing requirements for conflict management and resolution skills by all the stakeholders.

 

The private sector and the public sector organizations in India which have been exposed to competition and which have been given appropriate organizational incentives have responded by initiating significant efficiency enhancing measures. The general governmental services however have so far not been subjected to much competition or to changes in human resource policies, and to altering of organizational incentive structures. In addition to bureaucracy, the other stakeholders in the system such as the elected officials and politicians, judiciary, media the educated and the opinion making classes have also not always approached public policy issues with the requisite expertise or with problem solving mindset.

 

Indeed to quote the Indian Prime Minister, there is a strong tendency on the part of the public policy stakeholders in India to ďÖ adopt political postures that are based in the past, indeed in the distant past and are out of line with our current interests as an increasingly globalized and globally integrated economyĒ.

 

 

In a democracy, it is essential that consensus for growth enhancing policies, with equity given due recognition, be developed. Future economic well-being, national security, and social cohesion are dependent on sustaining high trend rate of growth over a prolonged period.

 

It is in the above context that the role of public policy education should be viewed in India. The primary task of professional public policy education in India should be to bring about a mind-set change from ruling to governing, and to improve public policy processes and management.

 

Minimization of transactions costs; addressing moral hazard, adverse selection and asymmetric information issues; recognition of the importance of social capital; maintenance of financial stability; managing pervasive agency problems; and the importance of competition as a spur to economic efficiency are currently inadequately reflected in public policy and programmes.Public policy education is essential to overcome this inadequacy.

 

Public policy education should include all stakeholders, including politicians, civil servants at all levels of government, legislative and judiciary staffs, media, security personnel, academicians, researchers, and others. Near exclusive focus on providing such education to personnel from All India Services, including Indian Administrative Service, should be avoided.

 

For public policy education to have the desired impact it is essential that governments in India, particularly at the Centre, demonstrate willingness to accept basic principles of good governance and management. This will require far reaching administrative and civil service reform. As a part of such reform, shift from cadre and seniority based organization of the civil service to a functional and merit-based organization.It does appear that congruence between educational and professional experience of civil servant on the one hand and responsibilities assigned is much less in India than in countries which are comparable in size, complexity, and growth potential.

 

 

Public Policy Education in India

 

IN RECENT YEARS, public policy education has witnessed strong growth internationally, particularly in Asia. China, Japan, and Korea have established highly visible, well-funded public policy Schools. Singaporeís Public Policy School is also well-funded and has a diverse range of international collaborations, student body, and faculty. Much of the inspiration for public policy schools appears to be derived from the well-established public policy schools in the United States.

 

So far, the public policy educations initiatives in India have been modest. Three management institutes (Indian Institute of Management at Bangalore and Ahmedabad, and Management Development Institute in Guragaon) have really small programmes (each having a class size of between 25 and 35 students), with students drawn exclusively from the All India Services. The Energy Research Institute (TERI), a deemed University also has a similar programme. All these Programmes have a tie-up with different U.S. based public policy schools, with six to eight week attachment with them. Such an attachment can be potentially useful in exposing students to more outcome-oriented and accountable public services of the United States.

 

All the Programmes currently involve officers from All India Services. This may fulfill the mandate of the Central Governmentís Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT). It however does not meet the needs of the country for several reasons.

 

First, since team work is essential for desired outcomes, training should not be confined to certain segments of the central government.

 

Second, the current programmes do not appear to be aligned with the training provided to these officials at the time of induction. It is during the induction training that long-lasting mind-sets and practices appear to be formed. Limited provisions for lateral entry and specialization in the civil service also limit absorption of new ideas and techniques.

 

Third, more widespread opportunities for public policy education at the earlier stages of the career of the officials may be more effective. Indeed, many civil servants have observed that during the first ten years of service, analytical and managerial skills would have had beneficial impact on their performance.The habit of empirical-evidence based public policies needs to be cultivated among the officials from the beginning.

 

 

Fourth, much of the governmental services are provided at the state and municipal levels. The civil service training institutes at the state level, and many training institutes at the Centre (such as the National Social Security Training Institute) have exhibited pronounced tendency to train administrators who are overly respectful of the past practices and paradigms and not public policy managers who are enthused by the vision of rising India. Professionalizing such training institutes, and using their existing physical assets more strategically and productively is essential to widen the opportunities for public policy education and to broaden revenue sources.

 

Fifth, the model adopted for these programmes have inherent limitations in being able to increase access and supply of public policy education. For example, the programme at Bangalore is residential, with 31 apartments specifically built for the participants. This not only requires upfront capital, but it limits enrollment. Economies of scale and scope therefore cannot be achieved; while possibly reducing flexibility in the choice of institutions.

 

Sixth, there is a practice by the Central government to send large number of officers abroad, without always ensuring that large investments in their training are reflected in benefits to the country. There is also a tendency on the part of the government organizations to pay a large premium on branding when through greater strategic vision, the same outcome can be achieved with less resources. The efficient allocation of the training budget therefore requires reconsideration.

 

Seventh, a good quality public policy education requires access to strong disciplinary expertise in economics, management, science and technology, law, environment, and other areas. The student body also must be diverse, including foreign students. The faculty must include academics and practitioners from diverse backgrounds and experience.

 

The above suggests that public policy education should be an integral part of the wider reform of higher education in India. Separation of graduate from undergraduate education, and of research from teaching has not proved to be effective. Innovative approaches are therefore needed. But further analysis of this topic is beyond the scope of the paper.

 

Governance Structure

 

IT IS ESSENTIAL that the dynamics of public policy education and evolving international trends be incorporated in public policy education in India. The governance structure should therefore have focused responsibilities and accountability for the outcomes. A separate governing board responsible for public policy programs in the institution should be encouraged. The institution should also set up an advisory committee of national and international prominent and knowledgeable individuals who provide international benchmarking of the curriculum and enable new developments to be reflected in the public policy curriculum. These could be honorary positions with only the expenses met. The key will be to select the persons who are advancing public policy education in India.

Leaders with vision such as Mr. Narayan Murthy of Infosys, and Mr. Bimal Jalan are examples of the appropriate persons to be on the governing board.

 

The board and the advisory committee should also be encouraged to help in networking and raising resources to enable appropriate facilities and compensation structures, as well as research facilities to be developed.

 

India should also aim to export its public policy education by making it attractive for the foreign participants to come to its institutions. Serious consideration could be given to establishing a new world class public policy School with public-private partnership, where foreign participation on a fee-paying basis will be encouraged.

 

Institutional Structure

 

SERIOUS CONSIDERATION SHOULD be given to setting up an association of all educational institutions providing public policy education in India along the lines of Association of Public Policy Schools (APPAM) in the United States. It is suggested that there should be an annual conference jointly organized by these schools. It could rotate between Delhi and some other city. There should be a small permanent secretariat to be based in Delhi.

 

There should be an Indian Journal of Public Policy which should try to establish itself as a world class public policy journal, but affordable by the Indian institutions. Participating institutions should include institutes such as Leadership Institute setup by Mr. Murthy in Mysore; E-governments Foundation in Bangalore, National Institute for Smart Governance in Hyderabad, PROOF (Public Record of Operations & Finance)and ICMA (Indian City Mangers Association ) in Ahmedabad. This will enable wider participation and pooling of resources and expertise can be achieved.

 

 

 

Executive Programmes

 

THE SHORT DURATION executive courses fulfill many objectives. First, they permit public policy education to be made available to a much larger number of participants. Second, more specialized topics can be covered in such courses and third, executive education is an integral part of any professional school. Indeed in some public policy schools, executive education programs are an important way to showcase the schoolís capabilities and to generate additional revenues for development of physical facilities and remunerate faculty while using physical infrastructure more intensively. There should be a specialized person in charge of the executive program with clear accountability for the outcomes.

 

India is developing strategic partnerships with many countries. These should be leveraged to provide exposure and increase networking with the relevant countries. This will require much greater effort on the part of the DOPT. The vision however should be spread the public policy education in India as rapidly as possible, with a view to improving governments and management.

 

The Business Sector Stake

 

There are several reasons why the business sector has a vital stake in more professional and extensive public policy education in India.

 

First, more professional and competent public sector organizations can be expected to lead to better public policies. These in turn could greatly increase the competitiveness of Indian businesses, and enable the country to attain higher rate of growth and livelihood creation.

Second, the effectiveness of public-private partnership will also be enhanced by better understanding of the developmental tasks facing India by all the stakeholders. It is now recognized that public sector alone simply does not have the capacity and competence to meet infrastructure and social sector needs. Public-private partnerships both within the domestic sphere and in the international sphere are essential.This also applies to economic diplomacy and to enhancing Indiaís soft power globally.

 

Third, business operates in a social context. This is particularly relevant in a heterogeneous country such as India, with widely differing levels of readiness for meeting modernization and globalization challenges. Indeed, it is presumed greater willingness of domestic businesses to shoulder social responsibilities that constitutes an important argument for encouraging domestic ownership of companies. Public policy education can assist all stakeholders to better appreciate the balance needed between the needs of business and those of the society. An initiation by the Bangalore-based businesses, mainly in the IT sector, to assist in revamping municipal accounting and budget management systems illustrates the type of tasks being performed by Indiaís domestic business sector.

 

Fourth, business sector must increasingly manage complex and extensive regulation. The number of regulatory agencies has increased considerably in India since the early 1990s; and so have the impact of Indiaís increasingly globally integrated economy of regulation by public and private bodies abroad. Thus, new accounting rules requiring contingent pension and health liabilities to be reflected in company accounts; and Basel II bank capital adequacy requirements have significantly impacted on businesses. Poor regulation and implementation can make otherwise well intentioned public policies dysfunctional and perverse.

 

Indiaís Prime Minister recently argued that the outmoded governmental institutions and mind-set have been responsible for the eagerness of Indian businesses to invest abroad, and for the low level of exposure of global Indian entrepreneurs to manufacturing operations in India. The Prime Ministerís concern stems from the fact that in 2005-06, Indiaís outward FDI exceeded inward FDI; and that Indian controlled Mittal Steel with 100 million tonnes of annual output has negligible manufacturing operations in India.

 

In conclusion, the case for developing quality and widely accessible public policy programmes in India is quite strong. Indeed, Indiaís aspiration to become an important global player depends on the extent to which such an initiative is implemented. As in other areas, Indiaís policymakers and educators require focus and determination to urgently address this need. Financial and other resources are not the primary constraint. Willingness to shift mind-set from ruling to governing is.