Thoughts on economics and liberty

Restructuring, changing quality, and changing incentives in the Indian public service

Extracting from a FB conversation:

Sanjeev Sabhlok The issue is that nearly half are still doing things that should not be done at all in the first place. If government focuses only on things it should do (with a view to doing those things well) then these people can all contribute usefully – but at least half would need to move do different functions (e.g. in police/defence/justice/infrastructure). Further, I'd want salaries of everyone to be at least doubled, with NO tenure at senior levels (at JS and above in the first instance, but later at Under Secretary and above).
VJ: Agree totally that lots of people are doing things that needn't be done (Scooter India??) but the problem is that reduction in staff has gone hand in hand with a very sharp rise in things to be done. And now the core jobs are being done by contract and consultancy- underpaid contract staff, overpaid consultancy staff- with not much accountability built into the terms & conditions. We need to do fewer things and do them well and be paid well to do it. Exactly the opposite is happening.
Sanjeev Sabhlok Couldn't agree more. Increase in work is being driven by political goals – public choice theory will readily predict. We have 100 top quality economists (plus another 50 at least across departments) to provide policy advice to a small state government (50 lakh population). In the end policy areas will need to be significantly strengthened, and unnecessary functions curtailed. I suspect MMS/Montek Singh/Arun Maira/ Prajapati Trivedi on their own would have done well, but are being bound by political constraints. Results are very unfortunate.
BK:  Unfortunately, the reduction of staff has been adhoc. We need to identify areas that needs to be wound up while other where vacancies need immediate filling.
SK: Agree totally with Sanjeev Sir – without actually having read the article linked here. I would only add that this reduction should be even more drastic at the lower levels, you should see the interest levels and quality of peons, asstts, clerks, undersecys in central Govt – these should all be on contract basis to instil some discipline in them otherwise they are perpetually on leave or late! Class 4 should be completely outsourced and upper levels should do their own phone answering, photocopying, tea getting etc
Sanjeev Sabhlok In modern offices like the one I work in, in Australia, there are no peons, clerks, etc. You make your own coffee, take your own papers to the relevant people (or send by email), etc. In BFN I've outlined the need to modernise functioning and bring it to the 21st century.
VJ: The peons are totally redundant especially in goi, that goes without saying, but the fact the assts upwards are poor quality does not at all imply that they should be done away with. They need to be properly trained in computerised functioning and our systems have to be online that's all. We need people to do drudge brain work- reading papers, making notes.
Sanjeev Sabhlok Virtually no one below graduation is employed in policy positions now in the West, because almost all government work is brain work. All new graduates across the world are very familiar with computers and don't need too much training.

I think most assistants in India are unlikely to have the capacity to either read/understand modern policy documents or provide meaningful advice or drafts on serious policy questions. So the structure has to become top heavy (intellectual) – with well-paid graduates and postgraduates being employed, and others have to be transferred to manual work (e.g. in police/security). Like in the NIC. Even 12 years ago NIC only employed graduates, etc.

SJ: with the kind of assistants talked above and knowing that these are the persons who initiate notes and in many ministries top level put their "chidiya" on the file we can imagine the kind of policies that finally materialises
AK: While. Discussing this issue I think we must make a comparative study across the world… While US has around 7000 govt servants per 10000 residents India has 1600 …. If ur GDP is low and population is high then downsizing is not the answer n now we r experiencing the repercussions of it in the field…..
Sanjeev Sabhlok No, I'm not talking about downsizing, but recruiting much higher quality talent in a limited set of areas. So a restructure and revamp of recruitment and incentives, not a net reduction in employees.
SCB:  AK,What is the source of the statistical data in yr post about USA –the figures seem very,very high-70%-
AK: an article in hindu newspaper in the month of june sorry i think i missed one 0 its per one lakh… article in hindu 30th jan..
VJ: You mean this one? I keep sharing this link

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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