Friday, July 01, 2016

Do IES officers feel threatened if govt hires young bright economists from private sector, academics? Ex-PM Manmohan Singh says "yes"

FORMER Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh who was credited with bringing in a number of bright economists and experts from private sector to serve the government, failed to keep up with the momentum on lateral entry when he was the PM for 10 long years. Singh, himself an economist joining the government laterally -- first in the commerce ministry and then in the ministry of finance, said, the Indian Economic Service (IES) officers later felt their opportunities for career advancement and promotions were denied because of this…
trend of later entry to the government, as he was quoted in an interview published in The Indian Express today.
In that interview, Singh said that he wanted to sensitize the people of India on the need to revisit old orthodoxies and hence, a group of young and learned people was brought into the government from outside the conventional bureaucracy. He then cited examples such as economist and academic Nicholas Stern and Bimal Jalan (who left ICICI to join government in 1973). “Then, when I was the finance minister, I got Montek Singh to the finance ministry, brought in Shankar Acharya as chief economic advisor, Ashok Desai as advisor, Rakesh Mohan in the Planning Commission and Arvind Virmani in the Planning Commission”, Singh said in that interview. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, for example, remained Singh's blue-eyed boy and was the deputy chairman of Planning Commission when Singh was the PM. 
But did such later entry of economists become difficult to sustain at a later stage, particularly when Singh was the PM for 10 years between 2004 and 2014?
Singh said, earlier such experimentation was possible because the Indian Economic Service was small and nobody felt threatened. So many young professional economists could be brought in. “But later, the IES felt that their opportunities for career advancement and promotions were being denied”, Singh said in that Express interview. 
The IES cadre was created in 1961. The first direct recruitment examination was held only in 1967, producing the 1968 batch of IES. The IES officers over the years played critical roles in the erstwhile Planning Commission and in the ministry of finance. 
Technically, Chief Economic Adviser who sits in the finance ministry, heads the IES cadre.


  1. IES officers are threatened more by IAS officers but not just by lateral entrants. And why do anybody assume that all lateral entrants are brilliant and all IES officers are duds? We have seen many useless lateral entrants occupying posts in Department of Economic Affairs not by their brilliance but by their connections. All the IES officers are good economists. Some of them too have degrees from London School of Economics and other world class institutions. The moment a person clears IES he is considered as a dud. Those who could not clear the IES exam go on and get a degree from a foreign university and make lateral entry in the Department of Economic Affairs through back door. The fact is most of them are as good at economics as the IES officers or bad. But they dont know anything about Government functioning or administration. And Department of Economic Affairs is headed by IAS officers who are neither good at economics nor good at administration. They are only good at mismanaging politicians, media and other bureaucrats. This is a stark reality today.

    1. Lateral entry is always based on personal choice and therefore there is no guarantee of Merit. Dr. T.C.A. Anant, a brilliant economist has been a disastrous choice as Chief Statistician of India. By not having a vision for the statistical system he heads and by not strengthening the system he has caused enormous loss to the country. Moreover, his administrative inexperience has allowed lower level CSS functionaries to call shots in the Ministry of Statistics. IAS officers have been far better than this so called expert.

      Bharatee Jee

    2. IES is a redundant service. It should be closed and experts from private sector should be hired. Economics is a theoretical subject which needs constant updation and research. Unfortunately IES officers are complacent and not updated. Unlike IAS which is a generalist service, IES is a specialised job. What's the point of having people who are not updated in the specialised job. Most of them become AS and FA in ministires at top of their career, a post that has has nothing to do with economics.

  2. It is unfortunate that a gentleman who became the Prime Minister of the country after manning the posts of Finance Secretary and Finance Minister of India, failed to understand the difference between Economic Research and Economic Administration. Most of the IES officers are products of premier institutions such as Delhi School of Economics, JNU, CDS etc. Majority of the young IES officers are also possessing MPhil and PhD degrees also.They are also equally good in research work, but in Government, its the application of research findings which is more important than research itself. IES is a small service where the total cadre strentgh is around 500. Around 90 percent of IES officers are posted in the Central Ministries and Departmnet where in addition to thier core job of Economic Research and Administration, they are also supposed to handle issues pertaining to Parliament, Coordination, RTI etc. Some of the Ministries don't even have a proper Economic Division. IES officers posted in such Ministries have to work without any manpower support even at senior levels. Dr Singh, never looked at these aspects. When he was so particular about the domain experts in the Government, then he sould also accept that the posts of Secretary (Revenue) and Secretary (Economic Affairs) have always been manned by General Administrators. I think, Dr Singh himself being a lateral entry into Administration as weLl as Politics either did not understand these issues or preferred to ignore them.

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  4. I agree with Deepak and there is a striking difference between economic administation and research. The govt if wishes so should have lateral interants in NITI Aayog and IEO or any other policy making body.