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Plan panel to discuss budgetary support allocation

G. Srinivasan

Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia

New Delhi , Sept. 8

THE full meeting of the new Planning Commission under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government led by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, who is also the Chairman of the Plan panel, is being held here on Thursday to discuss and decide "important issues" and development programmes.

The Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, told Business Line here that foremost on the agenda is the allocation of the additional Rs 10,000 crore by way of gross budgetary support (GBS) in the current fiscal on policies and programmes spelt out in the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) and approval of the same.

"We will be presenting to the Commission an outline of the issues which the mid-term appraisal of the Tenth Five-Year Plan (2002-07) will address", Dr Ahluwalia said adding that "we have started the process of mid-term appraisal and we have prepared a note that sets out the major issues. We will look for the guidance from the Planning Commission on how we should proceed with conducting the mid-term appraisal."

Asked whether State finances issue would be discussed particularly in the light of the worsening fiscal situation in several States, he said, "As part of the mid-term appraisal we will give a brief indication but we are not discussing that."

When his attention was drawn to the criticism against inclusion of representatives of multilateral development agencies like the World Bank and regional development banks like the Asian Development Bank for eliciting outside views on mid-term appraisal of the Tenth Plan, Dr Ahluwalia said, "We regard the process of open consultations with a multiplicity of outside experts to be a very important part of making the mid-term appraisal meaningful. I just don't think that the Planning Commission can add value if it limits itself to the views of a small group of officials on the work of another group of officials. It is when we use the Plan panel as a window to get the views of outside observers, experts, non-governmental organisation like SEWA (Self-Employed Women Association), private sector and trade unions that we can really add value."

He said that the Commission had set up 19 consultative groups with the representatives of a broad shade of people with the individual group being headed by one or other member of the Commission. The issue is extremely important in order to open the Plan process and create possibilities for interaction among different stakeholders and across sectors.

"It is very important for us to consult broadly and do remember that this is only consultations, the actual work of the mid-term appraisal is an entirely internal affair and we will make that report on our responsibility," Dr

Ahluwalia asserted.

Sources in the Commission said other issues that might engage the full meeting of the Plan panel include among others, the centrally sponsored schemes — their transfer to States and keeping only the programmes of national importance with the Centre and about the status of empowered committees set up by the last National Development Council meeting by the previous Government.

They said that after more than a decade, it is for the first time that the Prime Minister himself will make a visit to Yojana Bhawan to attend the full meeting.

Besides the seven full-time members of the Planning Commission, the meeting would also be attended by ex-officio members including the Human Resource Development Minister, Mr Arjun Singh, the Defence Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, the Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidamabaram, the Agriculture Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, the Railway Minister, Mr Lalu Prasad, the Communications Minister, Mr Dayanidhi Maran, and the Minister of State for Planning and Programme Implementation, Mr M.V. Rajasekharan.

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