Politicians and Bureaucrats: Far from Black and White

Saksham Khosla and I have a new op-ed in the Hindustan Times. The piece extracts lessons from our recent Carnegie paper on India’s elite civil service cadre, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). Here is the gist:

Over the years, widespread political meddling has fueled the notion that malicious politicians stand in the way of honest, hardworking bureaucrats who seek to implement key government policies. A nascent scholarly literature, combining data on the career records of IAS officers with granular information on development outcomes and electoral dynamics, does not dispel this notion. But it finds that the relationship between politicians and the bureaucracy is far more complicated.

You can read the full piece here.

 

Video: The View from Delhi

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of moderating a wide-ranging discussion with three Indian Members of Parliament at the Carnegie Endowment: Sushmita Dev of Assam (INC), Baijayant “Jay” Panda of Odisha (BJD), and Anurag Thakur of Himachal Pradesh (BJP) .

The 90-minute discussion, including about 30 minutes of Q&A with the audience, touched upon everything from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to U.S.-India economic relations and climate change.

You can watch the entire event here.

Cleaning Rust From the Frame

Saksham Khosla and I have an op-ed in Monday’s edition of Mint that summarizes our recent Carnegie paper on the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). You can read the column here, but this is the basic gist:

Although there is no shortage of opinions related to the IAS, there has been a surprising paucity of hard data on its operations and performance until now. A new body of research, combining unprecedented access to the profiles of IAS officers with granular data on local development outcomes and electoral dynamics, sheds new light on their career trajectories, their impact on development outcomes, and their relationship to politics.

Mint supplied this nice infographic to accompany our piece (incidentally, Mint relaunched today as a broadsheet newspaper):

w_flap-graphic_monday

If you are interested, you can read the full paper on which this op-ed is based here.

 

Measuring Democracy in India

The August issue of Seminar is now online and it is worth checking out. There’s been a longstanding debate about the utility of election surveys in India, and this special issue explores multiple aspects of election surveys, from methodology to prediction and causal inference.

The full issue can be accessed here.  Neelanjan Sircar and I have a short essay on how to improve election surveys (short answer: greater transparency + data sharing). You can read our contribution here.

What is The View From New Delhi?

If you’re interested in what Members of Parliament from across the Indian political spectrum think about the Indian economy, the Modi government, or U.S.-India relations, then you’re in luck.

On Tuesday, September 13th from 4 to 5:30 p.m, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will host a public discussion with three Lok Sabha MPs: Sushmita Dev of the Indian National Congress, Baijayant “Jay” Panda of the Biju Janata Dal, and Anurag Thakur of the Bharatiya Janata Party. I’ll be moderating.

You can RSVP for the event here. If you can’t make it person, we will post video of the event within 2-3 days. We’re grateful to the Georgetown India Initiative and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) for co-hosting this event with us.

If you have any questions you would like me to ask, send me a message.

 

New Paper on the Indian Bureaucracy

Saksham Khosla and I have a new paper that reviews a fascinating, nascent empirical literature on the functioning and performance of India’s elite civil service cadre, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS).

Seemingly everyone has an opinion on what ails the IAS and what reforms ought to be pursued. But for the first time, we have actual hard data that can help inform both what is broken and, in turn, what fixes might be applied.

Our paper, and the literature we review, tries to answer three questions:

What determines the career success of officers in the IAS? To what degree can individual officers influence tangible development outcomes in areas such as poverty, health, and education? And what impact does politics have on bureaucratic functioning?

The full paper can be found here. But for those who would like an easy, one-page summary of the key take-aways, have a look at this policy brief.

A GST for India: Now Comes the Hard Part

A decade-and-a-half in the making, last week both houses of Parliament overwhelmingly passed a bill that amends the Indian Constitution to create a Goods and Services Tax (GST), bringing India closer than ever before to functioning as a common market.

I have a new essay in Foreign Affairs that looks at what the GST means for India–and the hard road ahead when it comes to implementation. Here’s a taste of the challenges that await:

Even assuming speedy legislative action and a reasonable compromise on the GST rate, the path ahead is riddled with landmines. Businesses will have to incur costs to adjust to the new regime, which will be especially high for smaller firms that have never paid taxes or lack the technology and expertise to adapt. The government will have to train new tax collectors and implement a massive new online tax system. In fact, leading economists suspect that there could be adverse consequences to both growth and inflation in the short term until these teething pains subside. To further muddy the waters, legal experts are already warning of future lawsuits over the constitutionality of the GST, since it alters the basic federal–state structure outlined in India’s founding document by reallocating taxation powers.

You can read the full piece here.