Author; former member, Planning Commission of India
Any discussion on policy and the future of India is enriched with Arun Maira’s views, and not just because he was a member of the Planning Commission of India for five years till June 2014. Arun is one of those rare people who have held leadership positions in both, the private as well as the public sector, bringing a unique perspective on how the two can work together to foster growth for India. He has led three rounds of participative and comprehensive scenario building for the future of India: in 1999 (with the Confederation of Indian Industry), 2005 (with the World Economic Forum), and 2011 (with the Planning Commission).
In his career spanning five decades, Arun has led several organisations, including the Boston Consulting Group in India. In the early part of his career, he spent 25 years in the Tata Group at various important positions. He was also a member of the Board of Tata Motors (then called TELCO). After leaving the Tatas, Arun joined Arthur D Little Inc (ADL), the international management consultancy, in the US, where he advised companies across sectors and geographies on their growth strategies and handling transformational change.
Another decade later, Arun was back in India, this time as the Chairman of the Boston Consulting Group, a position he held for eight years till 2008. The other leadership positions he has held include the Chairman of Axis Bank Foundation and Save the Children, India, and Chairman, Quality Council of India. He was also board member of the India Brand Equity Foundation, the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, and the UN Global Compact.
Recognising his astute understanding of both macro as well as micro policy issues, Arun has been involved in several government committees and organisations, including the National Innovation Council. He has been on the board of several companies as well as educational institutions and has chaired several national committees of the Confederation of Indian Industries.
In 2009, Arun was appointed as a member of the Planning Commission, which is led by the Prime Minister of India. At this minister-level position, he led the development of strategies for the country on issues relating to industrialisation and urbanisation, and drove the formulation of policies and programmes in these areas. He also advised the Commission on its future role.
Presently, Arun Maira is Chancellor of the Central University of Himachal Pradesh, Chairman of HelpAge International, a Member of the Advisory Board of the Global Economic Symposium, Chairman of the Foundation of MSME Clusters, and President of the Consumer Unity and Trust Society of India.
With his vast experience and expertise, Arun is indeed a thought leader. He is invited to speak at various forums and has written several books that capture his insights.
His most recent book, published in September 2015 is An Upstart in Government: Journeys of Change and Learning. His earlier books include Redesigning the Aeroplane While Flying: Reforming Institutions; Remaking India: One Country, One Destiny; Transforming Capitalism: Improving the World for Everyone, and Shaping the Future: Aspirational Leadership in India and Beyond.
Unemployed youth are wasted human resources and fuel for social unrest. The governments of developing as well as developed countries are realizing that the creation of more jobs may be their job #1. A survey of Indian citizens' views of the performance of Prime Minister Modi's government reveals they are most dissatisfied with its inability to produce more jobs. They want the government to make the creation of more jobs its highest priority now on.
The world is moving on two tracks which are not converging. On one track are institutions concerned with a narrowly defined 'economy', and with GDP. On the other track are institutions concerned with what GDP does not measure--environmental sustainability, human dignity, livelihoods, and justice--the concerns of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).The two worlds -- of GDP and SDGs -- must come together.
Flags, anthems, and slogans are only symbols. What they represent is what matters. Indian universities have been commanded to fly the national flag on a very high pole, ostensibly to make students better nationals. One hopes that the flag is made of the prescribed materials, and in the prescribed dimensions and colors, and does not dishonor the nation. More importantly, one wonders if the students and their teachers know the meaning of the flag.
Whilst debates about what India's Finance Minister should do on 29 February are getting into a frenzy, there is agreement that India's GDP needs to increase by around 10% per annum for at least two decades, as China's did, for India to transform itself. India must complete a marathon, not waste its energy in sprints. Consider three critical subjects that the Finance Minister will have to deal with in the Budget. These are taxation, provisions for building infrastructure and the development of the social sector.
India envies China, which, by growing a huge manufacturing industry -- employing hundreds of millions of persons making almost everything from low-end toys to high-speed trains -- has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, much faster than India has. Prime Minister Modi's government has launched several programs for India to catch up: Make in India, Stand Up Start Up India and Skills India. However, India will have to follow a very different strategy to China's.
It is wrong to blame 'democracy' for India's weaknesses in implementation. Many other countries which are proudly democratic, such as Germany, Canada, and the Scandinavian countries, are able to get things done very efficiently. They too have many ministries with different charters, and they too have stakeholders with divergent interests.
The principal questions foreign investors would ask me until recently were about the health of the Indian economy. Now another question is being asked too: what is happening to India's social fabric? Astute investors know that the condition of a country's society can have salient effects on its economic progress. The concern of Indian citizens is even deeper. For them, "development" does not have only an economic dimension. They fear that the tearing of the nation's social fabric is a price not worth paying for faster growth of GDP.