The fine art of laying down the Plan

The fine art of laying down the Plan

Sukanya Mohapatra and Chandra Shekhar / PTI

New Delhi: The definite game plan for 9% economic growth for the next five years getting the stamp of approval from the National Development Council (NDC), amid a minor acrimony from BJP ruled states, marked the year for the Planning Commission.

However, both the government and the private sector will have to burn midnight oil over some the estimates to make the rosy picture, as designed in the 11th Plan, a real successful saga at the end of Plan period.

For example, raising the additional $150 billion (Rs6 lakh crore) in the coming years to achieve the target for infrastructure investment could turn out to be a huge effort. Raising investment levels from 5% of GDP to 9% by 2011-12 is no mean task either.

According to Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who piloted the 11th Plan, infrastructure sector would need a total $500 billion, of which $150 billion would have to be obtained from global financial sources, as government and private companies are expected to mobilise only $350 billion.

The year also saw a new phrase in financial parlance — “communal budgeting". The 11th Plan, which earmarks outlay and central schemes for minorities, invited the ire of the BJP, with the Gujarat Chief Minister terming it as “communal budgeting".

The Commission has spend major part of the year in formulating the Plan document, which went through various stages of preparation and scrutiny, including an exclusive NDC meeting on agriculture sector.

The Plan gives top priority to agriculture, health and education. As part of the Plan preparation exercise, the government had convened a meeting of the NDC in May to discuss and formulate specific strategies for the farm sector.

The meeting sought a greater role for the states in improving the agro-climatic conditions through adoption of specific strategies for which the Prime Minister promised Central help in the form of incentives.

The Prime Minister also underlined the need to move away from mechanical implementation of fragmented schemes toward an integrated approach, based on a mix of interventions consistent with local requirements.

Later in September, a full Planning Commission meet on education was convened to firm up targets for the education sector with a view to promoting skill development.

The meet focussed on special schemes for educating minorities, SCs, STs and OBCs.

Chairing the meeting Singh had said, “Special attention would need to be paid to districts with SC/ST/OBC/Minority concentration. The recommendations of the Sachar Committee need to be seriously considered in the government’s programme for secondary and higher education."

The Prime Minister had said the Centre’s funding for education sector in the 11th Plan would be Rs2.5 lakh crore, a four-fold increase over the 10th Plan.

Earlier in the year, while addressing the ‘Pravasi Bhartiya Divas 2007’ in January, Ahluwalia invited experts in Indian diaspora to form a working group and give inputs for finalising the 11th Five Year Plan.

“There are many experts in Indian diaspora from which we can get fresh and workable ideas. If there are good ideas in any part of the world we are ready to take it," he told the meeting.

The Commission had set up 25 working groups, steering committees and task force to provide policy inputs for the Eleventh Plan.

Important working groups dealt with sectors like agriculture, water resources, state plans education, industry and minerals and power and energy, energy policy and rural energy among others.

The other important activity of the Commission included setting up of a High Level Committee on Financial Sector Reforms to outline a comprehensive agenda for the financial sector.

The 12-member committee, to be headed by Raghuram G Rajan, the former Economic Counsellor and Director of Research at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), will submit its report by March 31, 2008.

As per of the annual exercise, the Commission also approved state annual plans, starting with Tripura followed by Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu and other states.