Inter-linkages between Development Research and Policy Planning – Analytical Lessons from Indian Experiences in the Post Reforms Period

Arvind Virmani, Tarun Dass
JEL codes: 
EABER and PAFTAD working papers

India is a success story of economic reforms. Because of its vast size, it also provides a good example of having a wide network of research institutes, and effective linkages between development research, policy planning and outcome. Country case study on India makes a critical appraisal of theses linkages attempted since 1991 in external sector reforms (which were very comprehensive and successful), privatization strategy and policies (which were incomplete and partially successful) and labor markets reforms (which remained non-starter and unsuccessful).

Linkages between research-policy-implementation are very complex in a democratic set-up like India. The study supports the findings of other studies on BRP that the political institutional context is the most important factor determining the scope and extent of linkages among research, policy and implementation. Reforms in the external sector were most comprehensive and met lesser resistance from the political parties as the working class was not affected adversely by these policies.

On the other hand, progress of privatization and labor market reforms was slow and the scope was very limited due to political economy constraints. Despite various studies done in India indicating substantial benefits from liberalization of labor markets over a medium and long term, Indian labor laws still remain highly restrictive. Most of the research studies were ignored by the policy makers due to strong resistance from the trade unions and left parties who now support the coalition government at the centre.

Both researchers and policy makers agree that factors influencing successful uptake of research include significance and quality of research, good reputation of a research institute and its proximity to the government, qualifications and international experiences of policy makers, and involvement of all stakeholders from the early stages of research.

Another important lesson of the study is that most of the research is not policy oriented and many policies are not research based, while setting up working/ expert/ advisory groups serves as a key mechanism for bridging research and policy.

The study examines the strengths and weaknesses of interlinkages in terms of quality, relevance, extent of intra-communications, modes of links, dissemination and institutional arrangements, and recommends feasible measures for effective policy dialogue, efficient organizational and institutional set up and future policy agenda.