Mumbai: India needs 21st century governance standards that enable faster policy decisions to meet the aspirations of its people, industrialists and politicians concurred on Sunday at the India Economic Summit, organized by the World Economic Forum in Mumbai.
“In today’s world of aspirations, people need instant gratification,” said Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd, India’s most valuable company. “We need to put our heads down and see how to deliver faster within the defined framework.”
During a panel discussion on “India in the new global reality”, Ambani stated that to tread the path from a 20th century mindset to a 21st century delivery model, “a dramatic shift in terms of governance and leadership was needed”.
Debating policymaking: World Economic Forum founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab, Reliance Industries’ chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani, commerce minister Anand Sharma, ICICI Bank managing director and chief executive Chanda Kochhar and Maharashtra chief minister Privthviraj Chavan.
Ben J. Verwaayen, chief executive officer of French firm Alcatel-Lucent SA, said: “We have institutions from the 20th century (in India) and we have people from the 21st century. How do you manage the world’s largest democracy at a time when people are informed 24X7 in real time?”
“The government can use technology to automate a number of processes that will reduce the delivery time,” said P.R. Ramesh, chairman of Deloitte Haskins and Sells, an international audit and consulting firm. Reducing ambiguity in the language in which laws are drafted is also important, according to Ramesh, as decision making often gets delayed because the same law is interpreted differently by various entities.
Citing an example of the generation gap between the country’s decision-making process and the aspirations of its people, Ambani spoke of the role of the private sector in education.
Despite unanimity that education will play a crucial role in India’s development, the country lacks a law allowing the private sector to build a not-for-profit university. To enact such legislation could take five to seven years, Ambani said.
Ambani, who has been planning to build a university in Maharashtra, said with the state chief minister’s initiative, a framework could be in place in 12-15 months.
Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who was also on the panel, said although the legislation was “through”, there were issues with regard to what sort of affirmative action measures should be made part of the framework to foster inclusiveness. Such measures, Chavan said, could be resented by private sector investors in education as they did not like to be “shacked” by mandatory affirmative action.
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“The main challenge before the political system in India is managing the diversity of the country,” Chavan said. “It is very difficult to satisfy the captains of industry and aspirations of people who are not empowered with education and have little resources at their disposal.”
Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma admitted that managing the contradictions of different constituents of a coalition government and taking decisions was a challenge.
He cited a couple of Bills to reform the insurance sector and labour laws in the country, which are pending in Parliament, as examples.