‘In the context of the neo-liberal paradigm of developmental planning, multi-level planning is expected to make operations cost-effective and remove many implementation blockages’- Discuss (15 marks)

Mentor’s Comment:

  • The question is an analytical one. The demand of the question is to explain how in the era of the neo-liberal paradigm, multi-level planning has brought inefficiency in governance.
  •  In the introduction mention the change in developmental planning in the context of the neoliberal era.
  •  In the body, explain what is multi-level planning, then explain how multi-level planning is expected to reduce regional disparities and bring more equity in development since the chief factor behind persistent regional imbalances has been diagnosed as the unstudied application of the macro plan at micro levels without necessary modifications/detailing by the local development planners to address the particular requirements of an area/target group. Mention how expertise (subject/sector-specific) is involved in planning there by a detailed plan along with identification of bottlenecks in done and a solution is given mention how with the involvement of bottom level workers, ground-level difficulties/hindrances are taken into account.
  •  Conclude by stating how in the neo-liberal phase, planning is done giving importance to local cultures and geography. Example – resource-based mobilization, job creation.

Answer:

Neoliberalism is a policy model—bridging politics, social studies, and economics—that seeks to transfer control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector. It tends towards free-market capitalism and away from government spending, regulation, and public ownership. In this change in the economic scenario where the government is supposed to be an enabler rather than a player or provider of first and last, multi-level planning holds significance.

Multi-Level Planning:

  • Multi-level Planning opposed to centralized planning is an exercise where local institutions are actively involved not only at the implementation level but MLP is a more integrative effort that seeks to involve all hierarchies of administrative, geographical, political and regional levels in the planning process. 
  • It seeks to involve the active participation of the lower hierarchical levels in information generation, data collection, policy suggestions, plan implementation & monitoring of all developmental activities. 
  • The various levels of multi-level planning in India are: 
    • Centre
    • States
    • Districts
    • Blocks
    • Villages.

How multi-level planning is expected to make operations cost-effective and remove many implementation blockages:

  • Relevant policies: MLP involves involving decision-makers at all spatial levels in the planning process through negotiations, deliberations, and consultations by way of communication through information flows and mutual partaking of perspectives which makes policies relevant and need-based.
  • People’s participation: As a natural corollary to the decentralisation of planning, mechanisms for peoples’ involvement need to be intensively explored for each level for more ‘relevant’ policy since interests cannot be adequately articulated without the active participation of people who are the intended beneficiaries. 
  • Articulation at local levels could then be factored in policy proposals. 
  • Cost-effective operations: Multi-level planning is expected to make operations cost-effective by providing better linkages between relevant sectors and ready access to required information, which would remove many implementation blockages.
  • Doing away of regional disparities and imbalances: By way of delayed decisions, Multi-level planning is expected to reduce regional disparities and bring more equity in development, since the chief factor behind persistent regional imbalances has been diagnosed as an unstudied application of the macro plan at micro levels without necessary modifications/detailing by the local development planners to address the particular requirements of an area/target group. 
  • Fight against corruption: Corruption has been another persistent problem. For example, the main problem with poverty alleviation programs has been the identification of beneficiaries and articulation of their needs, which has been far from orderly. Omissions/commissions alleged/inadvertent have largely thwarted efforts. 
  • Identification through local bodies can address the problem. Development planning is expected to simplify the implementation process by infusing role clarity, removing overlapping between sectors and establishing needed linkages for set output levels. 
  • Local development planners can decide on the territorial level, viz. gram sabha, Samiti or Zilla Parishad, where a function can be performed with maximum impact and economy. 
  • The revival of local self-governments: As per the MLP approach, the establishment of local “self-government” would renew local administration, which would have positive spin-off effects on business generally. The improved investment climate is expected. 

Issues with MLP in the neo-liberal paradigm:

  • A major problem, widely recognized, is one that relates to the activities that should 
  • An important issue of discussion for long has been whether the division of powers Multi-level Planning and functions between State and sub-State levels should be nationally determined or left to individual states to decide. 
  • In a given geographical area, there are various levels of government, such as Centre, state and district and several agencies at each level functioning in the same area. 
  • The relationship in each category could vary in degree from superior-subordinate, equal, to semi-independent in nature. 
  • The way the agencies are structured at each area level in terms of representation to area-levels, and the superior-subordinate, semi-equal or equal nature of the relationship in access to resources and powers of decision making, constitutes the core of multilevel planning. 
  • When the framework at sub-State level is varying and unclear, the functioning, in reality, can be very much at variance with formal structures (leading to an accusation of hypocrisy or real centralization in the guise of decentralization).

Way Forward:

  • In determining appropriate area levels, there is a need to take into account not only planning requirements in terms of techniques and processes but also social, political and administrative structures.
  • There is a need to introduce Constitutional provisions to ensure continuity and authenticity to such arrangements, particularly in regard to elections for bodies at sub-state levels.
  • Since multi-level planning involves the sharing of policy and planning functions with the sub-national levels following six operational sing principles have been suggested for devising necessary mechanisms and procedures for effective flows of information for planning and for frequent interac­tion with the participating levels.

In India, our planning process has mostly been centralized and a single- level sectored planning has been going on for a long time. In the context of the neo-liberal paradigm of development planning, for a country as wide and diverse as India, every state, district, block and village have to formulate its model of development, outlining its short-, medium- and long-term perspectives. 

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