There is an interesting article by N.Vittal, ex-bureaucrat, on where governments falter, despite coming up with - at least in their own minds - people-friendly policies.
N.Vittal concludes that the problem is in poor implementation, and talks about four specific points that policy makers should think about.
- Bureaucrats at the top have a fairly clear idea of what needs to be implemented. However down the line, those in the field have very poor idea and end up executing something by the letter rather than the spirit. If the 'letter' is messy, the implementation is messy as well. So problem number one is improper communication of the vision down the line.
- Problem number two is, as anyone would have guessed, corruption. This is something that we have to mostly put up with and hope to keep chipping it away and reduce the scale considerably.
- Top civil servants not going to the field to see for themselves where the problem is. This is closely related to problem one.
- Lack of accountability. Public servants are rarely prosecuted, and anti-corruption laws are poorly implemented. Hence there is no incentive for anyone to be honest and accountable at the implementation level.
Dealing with corruption is a major issue in itself. The Prime Minister can perhaps take up accountability and de-centralisation as priorities. Otherwise, whatever policies his government comes up with will always be poorly implemented. Key part of decentralisation is giving power to local bodies to implement certain important civic functions - such as primary and secondary education, quality primary healthcare and locality development. There should be strong laws to remove the control state governments have over the local bodies. Central government should ensure distribution of funds to local bodies directly. There will be corruption, as there has always been, but local bodies are likely to be more responsive to local needs than centralised corruption.
The next thing that can be done is to create an effective administrative model where the top civil servants meet staff at the implementation level on a regular basis. Now, this could be easier said than done. Some of the retired bureaucrats should come up with a paper on specific examples of where things are going wrong in the administration and how it can be improved.