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.