Mumbai: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday called for a review of the Planning Commission’s role in an increasingly open economy, asking if the government’s apex planning body had added new functions without restructuring its traditional activities.

“With an increasingly open and liberalised economy with a greater reliance on market mechanisms, we need to reflect on what the role of the Planning Commission needs to be," Singh said. He was speaking at a Planning Commission meeting held on Wednesday. The Prime Minister is chairman of the Planning Commission.

The Plan Panel will be reconstituted as a new government takes office after the Lok Sabha election result is announced on 16 May. Policymakers including former finance minister Yashwant Sinha have called for restructuring the commission, which was set up by a cabinet resolution in 1950 to coordinate and allocate the government’s resources efficiently. Sinha’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a frontrunner to win the election.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, said the chief concern of the plan panel now is to ensure that the mid-term appraisal process is not affected due to the election. The appraisal is due later this year as 2014 is the third year of the 12th Five Year Plan period that ends in 2017. The Planning Commission will send to the Prime Minister an assessment of where things stand as an input to the new panel, Ahluwalia said.

India’s economic growth is much below the 8% target laid out in the 12th plan, with growth in the last two years slipping below 5%. Gross domestic product growth in the 2013-14 fiscal year is expected to be about 4.9% after the 4.5% growth clocked in the previous fiscal year.

The Prime Minister complimented the setting up of the Independent Evaluation Office and adopting a scenarios approach to push more strongly for implementation of the current Five Year Plan. But he also pointed out that one of the key initiatives of the Plan Panel in pushing public private partnership, or PPP, in infrastructure projects had run into problems. The government was able to award only 14% of its targeted 9,500 km of highways through the PPP channel last year, and private contractors have threatened to exit from two projects.

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