India: Three year Action Agenda (2017-18 to 2019-2020)
On May 9, 2016, the Prime Minister’s Office advised NITI Aayog to prepare documents containing its ‘Fifteen Year Vision’, ‘Seven Year Strategy’ and ‘Three Year Action Agenda’.
On August 24, 2017, India: Three year Action Agenda (2017-18 to 2019-2020) was unveiled by Arun Jaitley (then Minister of Finance), Dharmendra Pradhan (Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas) and Dr. Arvind Panagariya (vice-chairman of NITI Aayog). It recommends changes in policies related to the ‘development process’ and programmes for three years.
The ‘Fifteen Year Vision’, ‘Seven Year Strategy’ and ‘Three Year Action Agenda’ are a departure from the Planning Commission’s Five Year Plans. The Agenda states that “with an increasingly open and liberalized economy, we needed to rethink the tools and approaches to conceptualizing the development process.”
The 24-chapter Agenda is arranged in seven parts. Chapter 1 is an overview; Chapters 2-4 (Part I) cover themes such as revenue and expenditure; Chapters 5 and 6 (Part II) discuss ‘economic transformations’ in agriculture, trade and industry; Chapters 7-9 (Part III) are on regional development; Chapters 10-15 (Part IV) are about ‘growth enablers’ such as energy, science and digital connectivity; Chapters 16-19 (Part V) cover governance and taxation; Chapters 20-22 (Part VI) discuss the social sector; and Chapters 23 and 24 (Part VII) look at sustainability.
The Agenda states that there has been a strong tendency towards revenue expenditure (broadly, expenditure for the normal running of the government which does not result in the creation of assets) at the expense of capital expenditure (broadly, the government’s expenditure on investments and acquiring assets such as land, buildings and machinery) in India.
Traditionally, this report notes, large parts of government resources allocated as capital expenditures have been invested in products that serve no public purpose, which the private sector can readily produce – such as machinery, fertiliser and steel. Such expenditures reduce investments in activities such as roads, railways, ports, irrigation, power and digital connectivity.
The Agenda remarks that the private sector has to be encouraged to participate in seed production and distribution by removing the price controls and other restrictions that discourage investment in the seed sector.
It advises that India replicate the Chinese strategy of creating very large special economic zones along its coast; China created such zones in the 1980s. The Agenda states that India must create two coastal employment zones (CEZs) along its eastern and western coasts, over 500 square kilometres or more. Locating these zones next to ports will allow firms to import and export products more quickly. The central government may commit to investing up to Rs. 5,000 crores in each CEZ over a period of three years, to create infrastructure and provide uninterrupted electricity at globally competitive rates.
The central government – states the Agenda – seeks to address the occupational and social vulnerabilities of the urban poor through the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (the National Urban Livelihoods Mission was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation in 2013). It aims to create opportunities for skill development and help the poor to set up self-employment ventures.
The Agenda recommends an augmentation in the capacity of road-based public transport by allowing private providers into the sector. Buses should be hired on long- term leases and private providers should be permitted to operate inter-state buses. This, the Agenda says, will help reduce financial stress for state governments and provide an additional revenue stream.
The Agenda recommends the creation of ‘information technology (IT) infrastructure’ to facilitate access to government services at any point in the day.
It recommends that ‘more established colleges’ should be given autonomy. This will relieve them of the centralised control of the university they come under and give them greater flexibility in academic matters.
Colleges with postgraduate teaching, an ‘excellent track record’ and a commitment to research should be given the option to convert into universities, suggests the Agenda. “This will allow the colleges to develop their brand name and compete more effectively for good students and teachers.”
Many states have laws and rules restricting the felling, transport and sale of trees – even on private lands. These discourage farmers from planting tree crops. They also prevent investments in community-managed forests. The Agenda states that these regulations and restrictions should be removed for private lands.
Focus and Factoids by Sushmita Datta.
NITI Aayog, Government of India
Government of India, New Delhi
24 Aug, 2017