Saturday, May 30, 2009

Right Sizing The Cabinet

The voters have given a clear mandate to this government to govern effectively. The people have made it quite clear that we value performance about all else.

In light of this I am dismayed to see the size of our council of ministers and the way it has been put together - with the focus being on pleasing allies and balancing regional interests. In any case, the way the government is structured is hardly conducive to good management.

Management gurus say that a manager should not have more than 7 direct reports into him. Our PM has 40 direct reports just in the council of ministers. This is not including other advisory bodies such as the Planning Commission. Clearly he cannot do justice to supervising all these people.

Several of the ministries exist for legacy reasons. Why do industries like Shipping, Mines, Coal, Textiles, Chemicals and Petroleum have separate ministries when there is anyway an Industries ministry and a labour ministry. Not to mention Finance and Commerce (although the latter is more about Exports, notwithstanding its name).

Clearly, the Cabinet and its performance would improve if we were to issue a few pink slips.

I spent a few minutes playing God (or Sonia) with the ministries and came up with these two diagrams. Figure 1 shows the 10 super ministries that would report directly into the Prime Minister (click on it to see a larger version).

The logic for the above is quite simple. To begin with we need a ministry for internal affairs and a ministry for external affairs. Those are obvious. Given our focus on development, it would be best to have ministries focused on the three main sectors of the economy - agriculture, manufacturing and services.

Next is HRD. Clearly India's big strength is its people and we all talk about the demographic dividend. Clearly there is a need to focus on people. Also I felt that in a large country like ours, transport is important enough to justify its own ministry. And going forward, we will have to find a way to grow without polluting the environment, so we need a ministry to focus on that. And finally, we need a finance ministry to focus on the money.

Those, then are the 10 super ministries.

Figure 2 shows what happened to the various other ministries. You will definitely need to click on it to be able to read it.

Most of the above seems obvious to me. The only one that I debated for a while was whether Defence needed a separate ministry. I decided against it because I feel that war is the last resort for the diplomat, and so I thought it would be best to combine the two into one ministry.

I am quite pleased with my last hour's work. Let me know what you think.


Atul said...

Very interesting Sonia ji.

Two points of disagreement. Transport and defence.

I'd put transport under Internal Affairs because it needs to work in conjunction with so many others, keeping it separate may cause issues.

While you are right about war etc. the fact is that the global situation impacts us and it's not something under our control. So I'd say we need Defence as a stand alone ministry.

But overall, you have an argument that should be heard in the upper echelons of power.


blakkkobera said...

Suman for President !

narendra shenoy said...

Very pertinent. And very well written!

Anonymous said...

While the note sounds intuitively correct, there are serious problems with the structure that you have created. Power corrupts, Absolute Power corrupts absolutely. So when the function gets centralised the power gets cornered significantly.

Decision making and file movement in the Government is slow. In this structure where the load is on a few it would slow down legislation even further.

The movement should be towards smaller states and smaller administration blocks. If this is achieved in the federal structure where state subjects are more than central subjects, your recommendation could work better. It may be pertinent to note that the Home Minister has already recommended the division of Home to Home and Internal Affairs/Security.
Of course having fewer ministers does not mean having fewer bureaucrats. In which case would you be jumping from frying pan to fire.

The system may be broke but this structure does not quite fix it!!