M A I N   N E W S

Left economists threaten to quit Plan panel
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 21
As the architect of the country’s economic reforms, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh woos the investors in the ‘Mecca’ of modern capitalism, New York, Left-oriented economists today threatened to quit the Planning Commission panel protesting the presence of experts from multi-lateral agencies.

“Inducting their personnel (World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Mackinsey) therefore amounts to taking a step, no matter how tiny, in the direction of undermining, not just de facto but even de jure, the autonomy and sovereignity of the Indian state,” the economists said in a strongly worded letter to Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

The threat to quit the panel comes a day after Mr Ahluwalia asserted that representatives from the World Bank and other multi-lateral agencies will continue in its consultative committees set up for the Tenth Plan’s mid-term appraisal.

The signatories to the letter Prabhat Patnaik, Usta Patnaik, C.P. Chandrasekhar, Jayati Ghosh and T.M. Thomas Issac contended that “inviting foreign academics, as the Planning Commission did in the Nehru era, is not the same as putting the World Bank personnel on officially constituted Planning Commission bodies.”

“The point at issue has nothing to do with `foreigners’; the point at issue is the intrusion into the domain of the Indian state of agencies controlled by foreign states,” the letter said. Brushing aside the threat of resignation by some Left-leaning economists, Planning Commission member Anwarul Hoda, today said, the “entire” commission stood behind the Deputy Chairman.

“There is no dissent within the Planning Commission. We have talked among ourselves, there is no dissent. The Planning Commission is unanimous,” he told reporters.

Mr Ahluwalia had said in London yesterday that he saw nothing wrong in soliciting the foreign experts’ views.

“Your (Ahluwalia) arguments in favour of inclusion are so general that on their basis there is no scope for excluding anyone. Effectively, therefore, they amount to non-arguments, since inclusion on their basis can be selective and arbitrary,” the letter said, adding a complete argument must specify the criteria for inclusion and exclusion.

Responding to Mr Ahluwalia’s observations that the Planning Commission must listen to a range of views, the letter said it was not a “debating society”.

“It is an organ of Indian state. A sovereign state is necessarily exclusionary, in the sense that its organs must exclude owing allegiance to or under the control/patronage of a foreign sovereign state”, it said.

“There can be absolutely no doubt about the fact that the World Bank and the ADB are under the control of foreign states: the US administration routinely uses the threat of withholding the World Bank loans as a means of putting political pressure on foreign governments.

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