“A balanced government procurement regime is not just about ensuring greater transparency in the system of economic governance of our country. Flanking policies such as competition policy, trade policy, manufacturing policy, social-economic development policy are to be taken into consideration for a government procurement policy to work better,” said Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International. He was speaking at the launch of a new CUTS project entitled “Government procurement – An emerging tool for global integration and good governance in India”. It is supported by the British High Commission in New Delhi under its Prosperity Fund.
“It is a good move on the part of the central government to design a central procurement law. Surprisingly, it is absent till date. Government procurement constituted about 15 to 20 percent of our national economy and it is more or less equally divided between the centre and state governments. Only two states – Karnataka and Tamil Nadu – have a law on government procurement. The centre should come out with a model and consult states to adopt that,” he added.
Andrew Jackson, Counsellor (Knowledge Economy) of the British High Commission spoke about the value of an open procurement system. He added that the implementation of the Plurilateral Agreement on Government Procurement, in which some Members of the World Trade Organisation are part of, will be reviewed this year and this project is expected to receive some good inputs from that review. Last year India has become an observer to the WTO Plurilateral Agreement on Government Procurement.
The project will look at costs and benefits of India’s possible accession to the WTO GPA. India’s offensive and defensive interests in sectors such as health (pharmaceuticals and medical equipment), information technology and IT-enabled services, and railways will be studied in detail. Fieldwork will be conducted in New Delhi, Geneva and some major capitals (such as Beijing, Washington) to understand issues and challenges in the process of accession to the WTO GPA and the kind of requests that India would expect to receive and also possible offers that India could make.
Experts present at the meeting underlined the importance of stakeholder consultations as there is not much awareness in India on transparency as well as market access aspects of government procurement. Other than this, they suggested that the project should look at the larger socio-economic developmental dimension of government procurement and to place issues of accessing to the WTO GPA in the context of India’s trade policy and its relationship with manufacturing policy.
The meeting highlighted that a systemic approach for a balanced government procurement regime is needed to look at issues from the perspectives of policy, governance of that policy, its process, procedures and methods of implementation, and the strategy that it is expected to follow within the overall context of national development. This requires a whole tool box of procurement reforms and not just about transparency in government procurement and costs and benefits of acceding to the WTO GPA.
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