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Controversies delay finalisation of 11th Plan

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Sep 17: Embroiled in myriad criticisms and divergent opinions, finalisation of the Approach Paper to the Eleventh Plan is likely to be delayed further as Plan Panel Deputy Chief Montek Singh Ahluwalia has taken a decision to give a fresh look to the entire document.

The Draft consultation paper which was brought into public domain just two months back for comments of all the stake holders and interested parties has evoked strong reaction from a broad spectrum of Central Government Ministries, State governments, economists and political parties.

The unprecedented move by Dr Ahluwalia of drawing comments from the public before giving it a final shape was aimed at achieving a political consensus before being put for approval of the full Plan Panel.

Insiders in the Commission say that the initiative has put Dr Ahluwalia in an awkward situation. If he shifts the suggestions and incorporates these into the Approach paper, its finalisation gets delayed. If he hurries up, ignoring the comments, the exercise is self-defeating.

Had Dr Ahluwalia followed the traditional approach, he whould have placed the Approach paper in the public domain only after its finalisation.

The comments have indeed been varied. The left parties have accussed the Commission of tilting the approach to the next development model too much in favour of reforms and not laying sufficient emphasis on social issues and improvement of social indicators, which formed the basis of the UPA alliance.

The tug of war between the Planning Commission and Finance Ministry on relaxing the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRMB) Act to facilitiate additional borrowings seems to have been settled in favour of the North Block. Dr Ahluwalia is of the view that being too fetish about the FRMB Act would result in lower level of capital asset creation.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram would want strict adherance to the FRMB Act as this was a commitment he had made to Parliament.

Heavy weight Central Ministers, like Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, have pleaded for more Central spending on their respective sectors. Mr Arjun Singh has gone to the extent of demanding that the FRMB Act be scrapped.

Dr Ahluwalia has already had 30 meetings of the Internal Planning Commission Committee, but a consensus is elusive.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is in the know of things, had a meeting of the top brass of the Commission recently to see how the varied views can be synthesised. Apart from all the members of the Commission, the meeting was attended by Dr Ahluwalia. The Prime Minister had directed that the Approach paper be completed by December, 2005. But come September, the Approach paper is still in the cobweb of debates and controversies. After the Approach paper is finalised it has to be converted into an Approach document. This is a tedious exercise which runs into several months.

The next Plan begins on April 1, 2007, and a familiar view in the Commission is that meeting this deadline is a near impossibility.

Before being put into operation, the Approach document has to be cleared by the National Development Council (NDC).

UNI

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