Opinion | Economic growth will automatically take place in an outcome-driven plan
On outcome-based planning for India, the previous article covered the concept of outcome-based planning and the concept of focusing on the child to track the outcome of various policies and implementations of government initiatives. The natural question that arises is how do we identify the various outcomes and convert them into actionable outputs, which when implemented, will provide the desired outcomes.
To address our desired outcomes, be it social, security, jobs or any of the other dimension discussed in the previous article, each outcome needs to be benchmarked against those from an Upper Middle Income Country (UMIC), especially if we will like to have a society that enjoys the benefits of being an UMIC by 2030. For such an outcome to be achieved, we need to have a similar quality of education, similar healthcare, safety, security and dignity. To benchmark the outcomes against those of a UMIC, appropriate outcome metrics need to be identified. For example, if we are looking at health as an outcome, we’d need to look at life expectancy, number of days lost to health issues, etc, as the outcome metrics and ensure that we reach the same levels as a UMIC.
The outcome metrics will lead us to identify the output metrics. For example, to achieve the same level of life expectancy as in a UMIC, we need to build the same number of hospital beds per thousand that is there in a UMIC. Similarly, we need to have the same number of doctors per thousand that is there in a UMIC. Or, the same square feet of schools per child that is there in a UMIC so that we can generate that many doctors. If we can build the infrastructure for healthcare at the same levels as in a UMIC, we can have similar life expectancies as in a UMIC.
Therefore, by comparing the metrics with those of a UMIC, one can find out the Gross Gap that exists in terms of the desired outputs. India had 0.7 beds per thousand in 2011, whereas the UMICs roughly had seven beds per thousand. So India had a Gross Gap of 6.3 beds per thousand in 2003, which translates to need for an additional 8.2 million hospital beds for a population of 1.3 billion. Based on this information, we need to find out how much of this gap can be addressed by business-as-usual implementations. The net of these figures will give us the Net Gap of hospital beds that need to be constructed to bring life expectancy to the levels in a UMIC. Of course, hospital beds is just one of the many outputs that we need to plan for, to improve the life expectancy and quality of life in the country.
Bridging this net gap will give us how many more hospital beds, hospitals and doctors that are required and hence how many more medical colleges that need to be setup. Therefore, in 2011, India should have planned for setting up 8.2 million more hospital beds as a necessary condition for achieving the higher levels of life expectancy.
Similarly, if food security is a desired outcome, the above process will show up how many more food silos are needed to be built to say support three years of expected rain deficit years. Of course with each such infrastructure, there needs to be the attendant institutional structures that also needs to be created.
Once we have the targets based on benchmarking with UMICs, one needs to publish a year-wise roadmap of the infrastructure required to achieve the desired outcomes. Such a published roadmap will provide visibility to the larger industry of the amount of raw material and labour required to meet it and will provide the drum beat to the industry to focus their energies and resources on what is needed for the nation as per the desired outcomes of the nation. The roadmap will also signal the RFPs and procurement that will happen and hence will also indicate the jobs that will get created.
Hence growth will come automatically if the outcome-driven plan is executed, with the resultant economy becoming far more robust and resilient as it will factor in the human aspirations, desires and demands. It will curtail irrelevant infrastructure creation, it will get the government machinery to focus on the outcomes and also get the private sector aligned to the government’s over-arching plan, without the rigidity or strictures of a planned economy.
For certain outcomes, such as female foeticide, child marriage, bonded labour, etc, there will be no global benchmark available. For such issues, the desired outcome is the eradication of such practices and it needs to be done on a war footing. Hence, we do not need global benchmarks for such issues.
Thus, we as a nation will be able to move more surefootedly towards a future that has the desired outcomes and our national aspirations addressed in a holistic manner, with growth coming as a by-product.
(This is the second in a multi-part series on Outcome-Based Planning)
(Jaijit Bhattacharya is president, Centre for Digital Economy Policy Research, and adjunct professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. Views expressed are personal)