Current Public Administration Magazine (JUNE 2019)

Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine

1. Accountability and Control

The Only Mantra

The Bhagwad Gita has important advice for policy entrepreneurs: “What lies between us and our greatest goals are not obstacles, but clearer paths to lesser goals.” Jobs are a lesser goal than wages. India’s problem is not unemployment — this has bounced in the low and narrow range of 4-7 per cent for 50 years — but employed poverty. Our traditional labour market shock absorbers — farm employment and self-employment — are dying because kids born after 1991 are unaccepting of self-exploitation and recognise the wage premiums, identity, dignity, soft skills, apprenticeship effect, and financial inclusion of formal jobs. I’d like to make the case that policy should pray to one god — formal jobs. And since goals decide strategy, our focus areas become clear.

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2. Indian Government and Politics

For Skilling India

Over the last 10 years, the Indian government has undertaken significant efforts in improving both the scale and quality of skilling, like setting up the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) in 2009, launching the Skill India mission in 2015, and the flagship skilling initiative, the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMVKY) in 2016. This, in turn, is expected to drive economic gains and social mobility for individuals as well as trigger a productivity dividend for enterprises.

Despite the progress made so far, today, learners face a multitude of challenges on their skilling journey. Two ecosystem barriers contribute directly to this: Informational asymmetries and limited quality assurance.

As far as the first barrier is concerned, there is a fundamental lack of awareness around why skills matter at the individual level. There is also a paucity of timely and reliable data on the supply of and demand for jobs, which makes it difficult for those seeking employment to identify what opportunities they should pursue.

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3. Indian Administration

Safety Net That Works

In the run up to the elections, a plethora of redistributive programmes, including farm loan waivers, cash transfers and minimum income guarantees came to the forefront as campaigners sought to balm rural distress. Amongst these is a proposal to launch a revised NREGA 3.0, in which 150 days of employment would be guaranteed to the rural poor. Almost 15 years after it was enacted, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) still makes waves in the news, but very little is known about its impact on the poor. Has the world’s largest workfare programme worked?

To elicit a fair answer to this question begs another question. What does the NREGA intend to do? Enacted as a legal right, the NREGA’s primary goal is social protection for the most vulnerable.

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4. Social Administration

Welfare Policy and Modi 2.0

Housing, sanitation, gas connections (Ujjwala), direct benefit transfers (DBT), income support (PM-Kisan) — contrary to early indications, the Narendra Modi government’s first term proved to be far more welfarist than was expected of a government that campaigned on the slogan of minimum government. With the benefit of hindsight, many pundits now argue that it is this medley of schemes that convinced voters to give the Modi government a resounding encore. Regardless of the many mysteries of the Indian voter, there is no argument that these schemes will remain the hallmark of Modi 1.0.

In their implementation, these schemes had all the ingredients of Modi’s political style — grand announcements, ambitious targets, tight centralised monitoring and outreach — resulting in an accelerated pace of activity. But they also brought to the fore deeply contested questions about the architecture of the welfare state, its functions and capability. The effectiveness of welfare policy under Modi 2.0 will rest on how it navigates this terrain and its willingness to invest in building state capacity.

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5. Current Topic

A Public Policy Must Regulate Algorithms and AI

Businesses are increasingly utilising algorithms to improve their pricing models, enhance customer experience and optimise business processes. Governments are employing algorithms to detect crime and determine fines. Consumers are benefitting from personalised services and lower prices. However, algorithms have also raised concerns such as collusions and malfunctioning, privacy, competition issues, and information asymmetry.

Automated systems have now made it easier for firms to achieve collusive outcomes without formal agreement or human interaction, thereby signalling anti-competitive behaviour. This results in “tacit algorithmic collusion”, an outcome which is still not covered by existing competition law.

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