EDITORIAL

Policy reform

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Subjectivities that define and determine ‘good’ and ‘bad’ differently for different people are very much there defining almost everything prefixed or suffixed by these adjectives. No wonder everything labeled as good or bad automatically becomes the focus of debate and controversy. Having said this, it doesn’t mean that these adjectives are good-for-nothing per se, that they don’t mean anything much. There are certainly some broader elements and factors that can be weighed against certain general yardsticks to qualify anything good or bad. Even then, the debates and controversies may continue to rage, but a generalized scale and its pointers are nevertheless an aid to rate things and this is why such scales have all along been developed and fine-tuned to gauge varied criteria that needed to be evaluated. Although there has never really been an overbearing consensus on various scales and yardsticks as well as their efficiency, but they have somehow armed us with tools to look at and gauge available evidence and indicators to arrive at a conclusion about social, political and economic indices, for instance.

One such important way of quantifying countries’ policy is through the Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) method developed by the World Bank. Although CPIA is a rating of countries’ policies and governance which largely determines how much money low-income countries can borrow from the international financial institutions like the World Bank Group, but it also helps in looking at the issues that go beyond the borrowing and lending. It is made up of sixteen indicators, grouped into four clusters: economic management, structural (economic) policies, social inclusion and governance. Despite being controversial, CPIA proves a very important tool for assessing the governmental policy as it rates the macroeconomic, structural, social, and public sector policies on a scale of 1 to 5, with a higher rating indicating more effective policy.

The average CPIA rating for the marginalized countries is only 2.95, whereas that for successful developers is 3.75. Now taking this as a pointer, it should not be difficult for one to assign a position to Jammu and Kashmir on this scale given the difficulties the state has been, and is facing on various fronts -- economic, structural, social, and public sector policies. This becomes all the more important because of the relationship between CIPA and growth: for the typical low-income, poor policy areas like Jammu and Kashmir, one-point improvement in the CPIA is associated with a higher growth rate of 1.6 percentage points. And as measured by CPIA, growth is more sensitive to policy reform in conflict situations rather than in normal situations, being most-sensitive during the first post-conflict decade. For the typical post-conflict country, a one-point improvement in the CPIA would raise growth by 2.5 percentage points.

The social, political and the economic policies, both at micro- and macro-levels have to be conflict-sensitive in Jammu and Kashmir if an increased growth, which could automatically translate into lesser conflict and more peace, is to be realized. But this won’t happen by hollow political speeches alone. It needs concrete measures programmed by proper expert and technical opinion. World literature provides a huge repository of dos and don’ts, which have been arrived at only after thorough study of similar situations elsewhere, for policy consideration in Jammu and Kashmir. The question, however, is: is our political and bureaucratic establishment ready for it? It must be remembered that typically bad policies are not in place by mistake, but because even though they are damaging to ordinary citizens, they favour some powerful groups in politics and bureaucracy. Resistance of these powerful groups to policy reform must not be difficult to understand!

 

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