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The India Policy Forum 2017
July 11, 2017

India International Centre, New Delhi

NCAER held the 14th India Policy Forum at the India International Centre in New Delhi on July 11-12, 2017. The IPF is NCAER’s annual economic policy research conference that brings together academics, policymakers, industry representatives, media, and researchers for discussions on key issues of Indian economic policy. The IPF includes presentations of original commissioned papers, leading to a published volume, and the annual IPF Lecture. A distinguished international Advisory Panel and an international Research Panel guide the IPF. The annual IPF Volume is the highest ranked economic journal out of India based on citation counts. 


Complimenting NCAER on its efforts over the years to promote applied policy research across India’s many economic development challenges, Dr Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Advisor, Government of India, highlighted the need for “relevance, rigour, and timeliness” in policy research, but also noted that for policymakers timeliness is paramount.  In his work as the CEA, he had found how policymakers simply do not have the luxury of waiting for the perfect answer, but nonetheless wanted experience and accumulated wisdom on what works and does not work in economic policy. Dr Subramanian was delivering the keynote address at the 14th India Policy Forum


“It is great to be here among this wonderful audience and an interesting array of papers and topics for the IPF’s presentations,” commented Dr Subramanian, while releasing the 13th IPF 2016-17 volume.”  He reiterated his firm belief in the accuracy of facts and figures and innovative ideas put forth by institutions like NCAER and in the papers presented at the IPF for shaping research and bridging gaps in capacity building.   He also suggested that there was a great scope for partnerships among government economists and policy-oriented academics that would lead to focused solutions to complex policy problems. In this collaborative process, academics like those assembled at the IPF could get access to the incredible data that India has and government economists could get access to the best analytical methods and policy experience. He thought this would be a win-win for both sides. 


Dr Shekhar Shah, Director General of NCAER and co-editor of the IPF Volume, said that he “welcomed both the advice that the CEA had for researchers and his suggestion to provide an expert resource that government economists could turn to for ready reference and quick queries on policy and technical issues of data and methodology.” He added, “NCAER would be more than happy to explore a ‘help-line’ resource of the kind that Dr Subramanian had recommended.”


 Dr Karthik Muralidharan, Associate Professor at the University of California, San Diego, and co-editor of the IPF volume, said that “Academics do need different timeframes to ensure that their answers are correct, but that is exactly the gap that we try to bridge with the India Policy Forum.  Increasingly, the IPF features papers that draw upon a mountain of high quality research and produce definitive assessments of the best policy advice.  These policy assessments can be invaluable go-to resources for policymakers in a hurry.” 


Dr Subramanian’s address was followed by papers on the solvable challenge of air pollution in India, a deep dive into state budgets in India, India’s linkages into global value chains, the implementation of ICT in agriculture, and the drivers of growth of India’s cities and towns in the 2000s. 


In addition to Dr Subramanian, several sessions of the IPF were chaired by key policymakers, including Mr S. P. Singh Parihar, Chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board, and Dr Anup Wadhawan, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and Dr Ramesh Chand, Member of NITI Aayog. Mr B. J. Panda, Member of the Lok Sabha participated in a final panel discussion on market failure vs government failure in India. 


The 14th IPF included a Policy Roundtable on financial inclusion and household finance in India debated the difficulties on the supply and demand side of household finance that need to be overcome in order to promote much greater financial inclusion of the relatively large percentage of the population that remained outside the formal financial system.  


The IPF 2017 ended in the evening of 12th July with the Annual IPL Lecture delivered by Professor Lant Pritchett of the Harvard Kennedy School at the Imperial Hotel. Dr Pritchett’s IPF Lecture on “Avoiding the morning-after blues: Building state capability while times are good,” combined different strands of his work on why countries should use periods of high growth to the fullest to build the capabilities of the state. His work along with Lawrence Summers had shown that such periods do not persist indefinitely. Countries need to focus their energies and resources on realistic pathways to building state capacity during the “good times.”