18th May 2011
In-depth exploration of the IAS and other services #3
I'm combining two short points in this blog post. These are closely related.
Huge Gaps in Policy Knowledge
As already indicated, IAS officers are generally very poor at public policy analysis and design. Even if they do not have the time or expertise themselves to research each issue that they are faced with, they should be competent enough to know what to look for and how to acquire the relevant information. Unfortunately, most of them do not possess the basic skills to help them demand world-class policy briefings. Further, even though I know that things are changing fast, at least till seven years back most senior officers remained computer illiterate despite being offered many opportunities for training. Without having outstanding computers skills, the efficiency gains available to public servants today across the world simply cannot be tapped into.
Not Supported with Information and Knowledge Sources
IT infrastructure in the Indian Government is extremely weak. There is no access to international standards and to the latest academic literature. Today that can’t be a major excuse, though. Simply having access to the internet should ease this problem considerably since policy documents of the developed countries are almost entirely available in the public domain. Indian civil servants can, if they so wish, literally cut and paste from the world’s best policies and at least partly circumvent the extensive and expensive policy development route followed in free nations. But a person can only take a horse to the water; he can’t make it drink. I suspect that even if this infrastructure is made available today, the vast majority of India’s current crop of public servants won’t open their minds and look for such things. I believe that for them to change, their incentives have to change; their sinecure has to be abolished.
[Note: This is an extract from my book, Breaking Free of Nehru]