Recommendations of expert panels should not be thrown into cold storage

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on October 31, 2019

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Suggestions by the HLAG on increasing exports and attracting more investments need to be considered seriously

The High Level Advisory Group on trade chaired by economist Surjit Bhalla put forward a number of proposals to increase exports and attract more foreign investments in its report submitted to the Government on Wednesday, but it is difficult to guess how much of it will be implemented.

Enabling greater access to credit for exporters, strengthening exports of labour-intensive sectors and ICT products, putting in place a national trade facilitation action plan and simplifying regulatory and tax framework for foreign investment funds and individual investors are indeed sound suggestions.

But despite Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal promising that the Centre would work on the proposals seriously, past records show that there is no certainty about how much of it would get implemented and when.

The Government sets up numerous task forces and high-level groups every year on various issues but a large part of the recommendations made by such groups never get implemented. The Commerce & Industry Ministry itself has set up at least a dozen think-tanks, advisory groups and task-forces over the recent years but most of the recommendations have failed to influence policy decisions.

For instance, many of the suggestions of the panel on SEZs headed by Bharat Forge’s Baba Kalyani have remained on paper. Nine months after the proposals were put forward to the government, all relevant inputs such as turning the zones into catalysts of employment growth and extending the sunset clause on income tax exemption for units beyond March 31, 2020 are yet to be seriously pursued by policy makers.

The think-tank and the task-force on e-commerce set up by the DPIIT met a worse fate. The first draft of the proposed e-commerce policy prepared by the task-force could not even be put up online for discussion because of strong opposition from many foreign retail companies on certain provisions which they thought went against their interests. The draft national e-commerce policy released by the Government in February this year, too, has not been received well by stakeholders and it seems it will take a much longer time for the Government to come up with a final e-commerce policy.

Another example of an advisory group whose proposals were largely ignored is the 'Task Force on Artificial Intelligence for India's Economic Transformation', constituted by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in 2017. The recommendations of the committee itself were not so strong with focus mostly on the areas the government should play a role, creation of employment and using AI to improve quality of life and solving problems for Indian citizens. The Government has to catch up with implementation in this case as well.

Published on October 31, 2019

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