The recently developed 15-year vision document of Niti Aayog is a subject of interest for common citizens of India. The vision document is in tandem with global trends and economic growth. The vision document is proposing various ways through which India can achieve its broader social objectives to meet the UNDP’s 2030 sustainable goals. It is expected that this long-term planning document will be a roadmap on transformation required in the planning system to sync it with the 14th Finance Commission recommendations. The 14th Finance Commission favoured giving states more untied funds along with greater fiscal responsibility in implementing centrally-sponsored schemes. To this effect, it increased the states’ share in central taxes from 32% to 42%.
One more interesting fact of this long-term plan/vision document is that the document will come into effect from 2017-18, along with a seven-year National Development Agenda which will lay down the schemes, programmes and strategies to achieve the long-term vision. The Aayog will also create a dashboard for monitoring, evaluation and review. “We will fix outcome targets for all major schemes, especially in infrastructure and social sectors.” Interestingly, the 15-year vision document will also include internal security and defence that have not been a part of five-year plans.
Indeed, the entire planning sounds very promising. However, critics of the Indian economic planning are having different opinions on the efficacy of Niti Aayog. The major concern of critics is that Niti Aayog does not have any financial power. This is merely an advisory body. Although, there are good examples of effective planning of the then planning commission, such a National Rural Health Mission, JNNURM etc., however, the current step up of Niti Aayog is too weak to have such leadership in ‘’transformational’’ planning and advisory supports.
The question that remains to be answered is how would be new regime of a 15-year vision document, to be followed by a seven-year National Development Agenda, which would then be monitored after every three years different from the existing set-up.
As the eminent economist and former principle advisor to the Planning Comission, Pronab SenPronab Sen said in the earlier set-up, the approach paper to a five-year-plan acted as a vision statement, while the five-year plans laid down the near term programmes, schemes and strategies which would be adopted to achieve those long-term goals. This was then monitored at a gap of every two-and-half years. Now, this is being replaced by a 15-year vision statement, followed by a seven-year National Development Agenda, which would then be monitored at an interval of every three years. “From 15-5-2.5 we are moving towards 15-7-3 regime,” Sen said.
Nonetheless, a document that lays down the roadmap for economic, social and strategic path of the country is always welcome as it would help the states and all stakeholders to align their objectives with the wider national goals. However, the challenge is to make the documents relevant and distinct with very clearly laid down goals, targets and timeframe to achieve them to ensure that the ‘vision statement’ does not loose its relevance in the manner in which the Five Year Plans did during the last few decades.
Tridip Baruah, Faculty, North East Institute of Advanced Studies [NE-IAS] , Assam