I give herewith a short menu of economic policy and institutional reform measures that the Government can implement in the next four years (2015-18) to transform the economy and the polity. I would urge all to join the effort to persuade those active in Public life, politicians and voters.
Economic Policy Reform Menu
(1) Tax Simplification & Integration and elimination of “Tax Terrorism"
a. GST (uniform rate, -Octroi)
b. Customs (e.g. Textiles ,Agriculture)
c. Income Tax (original version of DTB)
(2) Subsidies: Replace all (price distorting) Subsidies by Transfers to intended beneficiaries. Modality: UID, Bank Act-SUPAY Debit card, Mobile Payments. This will reduce corruption and inefficiency. The level of transfers(/subsidies) that are needed and can be sustained by the fiscal system is a separable issue that can be dealt with separately
(3) Sell all Loss making (non-defense) Public sector ; Exit Public sector (PSUs, PSBs) from competitive industries, sub-sectors as there is absolutely no gain to society, but a loss arising from inherent impulse to corruption & inefficiency in organizations run & overseen by political-bureaucratic masters
(4) Infrastructure: Support private entry and full-free competition in energy (Coal) & infrastructure (railway, ports, airports, electricity distribution/transmission; use open access for natural monopoly networks-eg distribution wires, rail track)
(5) Labor/Jobs: Simplify, Integrate Labor Laws, Rules & procedures, promote portability & competition in labor benefits & remove exit controls.
(6) Land: Purge Land Acquisition Law of bureaucratic-socialist provisions not found in market economies. Modernize-digitize land records, promote transparency in land use and freedom in land markets (buy, sell, lease, rent).
(7) Education: Purge RTE Act of distorting elements & suggest a modern regulatory structure for Private & Public education to create transparency on costs & benefits for students & parents and eliminate unnecessary-dysfunctional controls on private & public providers. Govt expenditure should focus on teacher training & E-learning, e-education platforms to reach poor and rural & remote areas
(8) Public Health: Build an end-to-end Sewage & sanitation (collection, transport, treatment, disposal, recycling), water & drainage (collection, treatment, purification, recycling) network. Eliminate communicable disease. Teach basics of cleanliness, nutrition & health through schools, media, public health e-portal). This should have the highest priority in Central Govt. fund allocation for health sector. Second priority of CG should be e-medicine, e-health platform to reach the poor & rural-remote areas.
Institutional Reform Menu
(1) Legal: Eliminate all antediluvian laws and integrate & simplify remaining laws. Simplify & reform Civil Procedure code to facilitate expeditious disposal of cases. Similarly integrate & simplify laws relating to crimes like murder, violence, rape and kidnapping. There is no need to have a separate law for each type of murder (private, public, social, rape related) and each form of violence- these can be clarified/detailed in the rules & procedures linked to the law.
(2) Police: States must be pressured by citizens to adopt and implement SC directions (in Prakash Singh case) on Police reform. Priority to separation, empowerment and independence of investigation & prosecution wing and citizens oversight board. Central government should create model legislation, rules and procedures for adoption by States. This single reform can make a big difference in respect for law and public security & safety with respect to riots, political murders, social violence (caste, religion, gender), rape & child molestation
(3) Judicial: Judicial appointment procedure must be reformed urgently to expedite the filling up of 35% vacancy in judiciary. Management of courts, cases load and cases must be modernized through use of Information technology and modern management practices. Funds & positions must be provided for this purpose.
(4) Electoral: Change laws, rules & regulations to eliminate criminals from politics. Introduce contributory State Funding of elections (with part of funding given after the results are known) along with independent auditing of party accounts and filing of income tax returns by parties.
(5) Bureaucratic: E-governance systems for transparent decision making, that make details of all expenditure/contracting decisions accessible to public. Introduce system of electronic records for organizations notorious for harassing the public (e.g. revenue departments) so that accountability is enhanced by the possibility of post outcome analysis (e.g. relating to excessive tax demands & % of legal appeals lost/won). Require all transfers of personnel in less than 2 & 1/2 years to be electronically filed (with reasons & record of decision makers involved-CM, HM, secy) on a portal run under the judiciary and open to the public. The transferee or others would be free to file a review case in court.