Thoughts on economics and liberty

Desperately needed: A good school of governance in India

India has singularly failed in imparting training on policy matters. While India has a number of engineering and management schools of world standard, it has absolutely no policy and governance school that comes even close to meeting even the lowest standards.

This is particularly unfortunate given Chanakya’s brilliant treatise on governance – Arthashastra – originated in India and remains particularly relevant for its numerous insights in governance and public policy.

India needs to wake up to the acute shortage of policy thinkers in the nation. My experience in talking to the senior most levels of India (in the bureaucracy and politics) has only confirmed this belief – that there is simply no human capacity in India to make good public policy.

We can make the best software and manage big companies like Intel and McKinsey. But we can't design even BASIC POLICY, leave alone policy that deals with complexity.

[What does good public policy look like? See this policy framework, and see the first prize winning entry in FTI's policy competition.]

A key proposal I've been making for some time now is to establish a Chanakya School of Governance, preferably as a branch of IIM Ahmedabad or Bangalore. Similar schools can then be established across other major univesity campuses in India. The Gujarat National Law University – which seems to have produced some excellent students in this field, could work with IIMA to set up such a school.

Indeed, if Narendra Modi wants India to succeed, this is the first project he should take up as PM (I'm not in favour of any government involvement in such a projects, but given the pathetic lack of interest in good governance from the India's billionnaires like Nandan Nilekani, Ratan Tata and Narayana Murthy, we have no option but to seek government funding in the first instance.)

Such a school should be on par if not better than the world’s best schools of governance such as Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Unfortunately India treats public policy with disdain, imagining that anyone who joins the IAS will miraculously gain proficiency in public policy analysis. That does not happen. IAS/IPS are in any event the most unaccountable civil service in the world. Only excuses for non-performance.

I hope India will treat this as a wake-up call and establish tens of world-class schools of government/governance.

Examples of schools of governance:

Other than the Kennedy school, examples include:

  • Woodrow Wilson School
  • USC Sol Price School of Public Policy
  • Australia and New Zealand School of Government
  • H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management
  • Melbourne School of Government
  • The University of Sydney's Graduate School of Government
  • School of Government & Policy – University of Canberra
  • School of Government and Society – University of Birmingham
  • Even School of Government Peking University!
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Sanjeev Sabhlok

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4 thoughts on “Desperately needed: A good school of governance in India
  1. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I know many of the lecturers personally. Unfortunately this course is not structured in a manner that either provides knowledge of governance frameworks or policy frameworks. It is more about personal opinions of the academics about a few areas, instead of overarching concepts and frameworks.

    Such a course would not necessarily provide the kinds of skills needed to prepare good governance systems or policy frameworks. A good start, perhaps, for those who have simply no idea.


  2. Abhishek

    “see the first prize winning entry in FTI’s policy competition”. – this link is missing sir. please do provide the link

  3. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Thanks. Done. FTI website links have all changed. No /blog/ in the URL now.


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