The Indian School of Public Policy

India is changing very rapidly and launching new programs and policies at breakneck pace–some reasonably well thought out, others not so well thought out. Historically, India has relied on a small cadre of IAS super-professionals–the basic structure goes back to Colonial times when a handful of Englishmen ruled the country–who are promoted internally and are expected to be generalists capable of handling any and all tasks. The quality of the IAS is unparalleled, of the 1 million people who typically write the Civil Services Exam the IAS accepts only about 180 candidates annually and there are less than 5000 IAS officers in total. But 5,000 generalists are not capable of running a country of over 1 billion people and and India’s bureaucracy as a whole is widely regarded as being slow and of low quality. The quality of the bureaucracy must increase, deep experts in policy must be encouraged and brought in on a lateral basis and there needs to be greater circulation with and understanding of the private sector.

The Indian government has started to show significant interest in hiring people from outside the bureaucratic ranks. NITI Aayog, the in-house government think tank, which replaced the Planning Commission, has hired young graduates from the world’s top universities as policy consultants. The Prime Minister Fellowship Scheme is an interesting initiative to attract young people to policymaking. A range of government departments and ministries do hire young, bright graduates in various disciplines to engage in research and advisory services. In fact, in a marked departure from tradition, the Indian government recently recruited 9 people working in the private sector into their joint secretary level (senior bureaucrats). Nine people doesn’t sound like a lot but these are hires at the top of the pyramid and

[T]his is perhaps the first time that a large of group of experts with domain knowledge will enter the government through the lateral-entry process.

The demand for policy professionals is there. What about the supply? I am enthusiastic about The Indian School of Public Policy, India’s newest policy school and the first to offer a post-graduate program in policy design and management. The ISPP has brought academics, policymakers and business professionals and philanthropists together to build a world-class policy school. I am an academic adviser to the school along with Arvind Panagariya, Shamika Ravi, Ajay Shah and others. The faculty includes Amitabh Mattoo, Dipankar Gupta, Parth J. Shah and Seema Chowdhry among others. Nandan Nilekani, Vallabh Bhansali and Jerry Rao are among the school’s supporters.

The ISPP opens this year with a one-year postgraduate program in Policy, Design & Management. More information here.


You are guilty of the Fatal Conceit Alex.

The best policy to make India suck less is very simple: Abolish the bureaucracy.

How many of these reforms will be reversed if Congress wins the current election?

Great, exciting. Way to go Alex.

"accepts only about 180 candidates annually and there are less than 5000 IAS officers in total. "

How many of those are fired every year? If the incentive is to beat very long odds to get the position but it's a sinecure when you get it, then the overall quality might well decline over time.

Or leave for better paying jobs? That also creates positive incentives, though of course, you might be left with a cadre of bright but lazy over time.

180/5000 = 3.5% annual intake, or about a 28 year average tenure. Pre-retirement turnover, voluntary or involuntary, has got to be very, very low.

My (possibly dated) view of Indian bureaucracy. (Don't worry, link is entirely SFW!)

Lol ... nice. In addition, I recall hearing that the courts are backlogged over a hundred years (in some jurisdictions).

"" The demand for {government} policy professionals is there. What about the supply? I am enthusiastic about The Indian School of Public Policy...""

What economic model relies heavily upon government policy experts to manage a national economy?

Why is Alex breathlessly "enthusiastic" about this economic model and its pursuit of new & improved policy experts?

He made friends in India and wishes that they get a chance to pull their families out of poverty via the bootstrap of bureaucracy?

What a nightmare! More and better (?) bureaucracy! That's like more and better killer epidemics! Instead of millions of individual experts making decisions based on real information and actual skill (aka the free market), we have school boy nerds with zero knowledge about anything making decisions on behalf of, or in lieu of, the real experts, and they make those decisions for -supposedly - millions!

"Government is not the solution to our problems, government IS the problem." - President Ronald Reagan

You could do better than the President who first destroyed our country's middle and working class and sold its remains to Wall Street Banks.

And who would that be, mouse? Cool thread derail btw.

They need to hire the ghost of John Cowperthwaite.

"there are less than 5000 IAS officers"
Surely you meant FEWER.

"Colonial times when a handful of Englishmen ruled the country"
What about all those from Scotland, Ireland and Wales?
Apart from that mistake of conflating English with British, it's an interesting article about a giant country attempting to modernise itself.
Thanks for the post

I generally have a problem with public policy degrees. What is "Policy, Design & Management"? For economic development? Health care? Urban planning? Infrastructure policy and management?

Policy degrees are often too vague. While there is certainly some overlap, the skills required to be a good policy maker in heath care deliver are very different from education services, etc.

They should offer specific degrees.

Sounds almost as if India is the idealized elite mandarin bureaucracy that late 00s China boosters claimed China (a massive Communist party bureaucracy) was. And it still doesn't help them very much.

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