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Further draft two minute introductory speech for the Horasis conference

Based on extensive feedback on my previous draft introductory pitch, I’ve done the following:

  • I’ve taken “me” and my story almost entirely out of the picture. Although this initial talk is supposed to be an introduction about oneself, I think I should focus on my message: I have to answer the reason WHY India needs a new political party. If people want to find out more about me, they can do so separately, later. Or they can just google me.
  • In 2007 in my TOI article on the bureaucracy I pointed out the contrast between the excellence of the private sector in India and the rotten performance of the public sector. I think that should be my main plank at the conference – particularly where the majority of participants are from the private sector. These guys are really good. They have been let down by the world’s worst governance system.
  • The third key thing I’m doing is to tell the assembled participants that they need to get involved (Call to action). I’m showing them that this is not rocket science but that it will require a significant, coordinated effort.

Of course, I always speak extempore, so these frameworks are merely means to assist me to organise my thoughts. What I finally speak will be determined on the spot.


Dear xx, my name is Sanjeev Sabhlok. I’m a founder and the overseas coordinator of Swarna Bharat Party, India’s only liberal party – that started functioning in a small way last year.

I think there is not much time available for this introduction so I’m going to keep it really short and to the point.

The issue here is about us as Indians and what we are achieving – in relation to (or in comparison with) what we could have achieved. The gap is monumental.

I have not only lived in India and served in the IAS for many years before resigning but also keep visiting India regularly from Melbourne, probably once a year on average.

The most astonishing thing that one observes is the excellence of the Indian private sector and the miserable performance of our public sector. Wherever the private sector gets involved, our performance is close to the world’s best. But wherever the government needs to do something, our performance plummets.

This is essentially the story of two India’s – one an India driven by enterprise, by innovation, by creativity. And the other India driven by despair, by corruption, by ignorance, by incompetence, by lethargy and practically every other evil that one can think of.

But even within the governance system, it is about the breakdown of basic governance. We can somehow send satellites to the moon but we cannot build a straight road, cannot build a drainage system, cannot ensure the supply of water and basic utilities, cannot ensure basic law and order, cannot ensure integrity of the police system or the integrity of the justice system.

We have been let down completely and totally by our public sector, by our governments which have failed to fulfil their most basic functions. We have the most corrupt government in the whole of the Asia Pacific region.

It feels as if the country is walking on one strong leg (the private sector) and one rickety leg (the government sector). The net result is as bad as having two bad legs.

There is nothing inevitable about this situation. Good governance is not rocket science. It is difficult but not impossible to understand incentives and to design systems to ensure accountability.

I can talk a lot about fundamental things like liberty, fundamental things like freedom of expression, freedom of occupation, and many other such things today but I will not do that.

I want to keep this conversation focused on governance and governance reforms. Since you as businesses or as investors are most dramatically affected by this.

I think we need to get very serious about governance reforms.

The only reason why we have this kind of governance system is because we have been continuing the British model unthinkingly for the past 70 years. And we added many other things that guarantee an increase in corruption and incompetence.

The different perspective of Nehru and Lee Kuan Yew towards profit also tells us a lot about the causes of this deplorable governance system.

Nehru told JRD Tata ‘Never talk to me about the word profit; it is a dirty word.’” At around the same time, Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore was telling his people that “You make profit into a dirty word and Singapore dies.”

We need free markets, unilateral free trade and massive economic and tax reform. That is a given, but we need even bigger and powerful governance system reforms.

We can talk a lot about the short-term experience of one Indian government or the other. But I’d like to remind us that the key issue facing us is that the Modi government has done nothing – absolutely nothing – to transform the design of the governance system of India.

He is effectively running the same run down machine that the British left behind.

Governance involves understanding incentives and aligning them to outcomes. The slogan of minimum government maximum governance has remained just that, since the Modi government does not understand that objectives do not equate to outcomes. It requires a level of detailed understanding of incentives that is completely missing from the governance system design.

By the way, in this regard, as well, Lee Kuan Yew was a pastmaster, a grandmaster of governance. He understood how incentives work like few others have ever understood.

We therefore need to look beyond short term minor policies and put them in context. We must focus on the big picture, and the big picture is that India is going nowhere unless it dramatically reforms its governance system.

The big picture story is that we are pretty much at the bottom of the world in governance systems. The big picture story is that none of the existing parties have the slightest clue about what can be done to fix this problem.

Those of us who dream of liberty should forget it since when even the most basic ingredients for governance are not to be found, the idea of liberty is likely to be wishful thinking.

Note that this is not a criticism only of the current BJP government. It is a criticism of the entire superstructure of our governance system that we have been implementing for the past 70 years. All existing major parties are complicit in the creation of this dysfunctional system.

Once again, because of the shortage of time, I will not go into too much detail here. A lot of information is found in a book Breaking Free of Nehru which can be downloaded from the internet.

My question to you is: what are we doing about this.

This issue is the elephant in the room that everybody can see clearly but no one wants to do anything about.

Expecting the existing parties to do anything about this is a delusion. They are a direct part of the system.

We need to change things, and shake them up. Else nothing will improve no matter how many Modis we get.

I will not go into concepts like socialism and liberalism which are given different interpretations by different people. But let us agree that we need a party that brings to India the best governance systems of the world.

This party that we need should ensure a system where dishonest people cannot enter politics and any incompetent people are removed instantly from the bureaucracy. We want a system where honesty, accountability and competence are expected as a matter of course.

This is the party that I have helped to found, and it has started operating in a small way from last year. This is called the Swarna Bharat Party of the Golden India party.

This is also India’s only liberal party. It is a party that believes in liberty and equal opportunity. It is a party that brings the world’s best policy frameworks to bear in designing any policy. It is a party of the sort that India has never seen before.

I am here to brief you about this party and how you can get involved in completely transforming India’s rotten governance system.

My message is very simple. We can keep talking about these existing parties till the cows come home, but we will have made no progress whatsoever. What we need is a world-class political party where the top talent of India can assemble, where the best ideas of policy making are understood and formulated, and from where accountability is built systematically into every part of the governance system of India.

Once again there is very little time to talk in detail about this, but I invite you to look at Swarna Bharat Party’s manifesto which is available on the Internet, and to get involved in supporting the development of this world class party for India.

At this conference are assembled some of the brightest brains that India has ever produced. I think if we can work together on a project to completely change India, we can actually make it work.

I recently wrote an article about this party in the Times of India and I am providing a copy of this article for you to review, which is lying on the table out there.

In this short introduction there’s insufficient time to elaborate, but I’d like to end by highlighting three big reforms that India needs: Electoral reforms through state funding of elections on a per vote basis; bureaucratic reform to eliminate the IAS (and all tenured services) and to replace them with a contractual, fully accountable bureaucracy. And fundamental reforms of the justice system including funding it more than 10 times its present level.

I think this should do as a brief introduction.

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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4 thoughts on “Further draft two minute introductory speech for the Horasis conference

    Your introduction draft speech was excellent and elaborate touching all the points for the present degeneration in our system in India. In my 33 years of association with GOI and four 7 year stint as a practicing advocate at Madurai Bench of Madras High Court, I have found two fundamental flaws in our governance which are the root cause for all the failures, corruption and maladministration. Lack of transparency and accountability are the two reasons. If all the transactions in the government and othere areas are transparent and every one is made accountable for his action, they you can see a sea change.

  2. vijay

    Sanjeev, glad to see you getting a chance to communicate your views.

    Wanted to ask you ne thing, India seems to have many institutes like Center for Policy research and so on? what is your opinion on those people who are a part of the institutes? Are they not bright or is it that they have good ideas but are being ignored by the netas?

  3. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I think all these institutes have some good ideas. Unfortunately, most do not understand the governance system or its incentives, so their ideas are largely not implementable.


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