Mahatma Gandhi University will soon launch the K.N. Raj Centre for Planning and Public Finance in memory of one of the key architects of the national Plan edifice. The late Raj, a widely respected development economist and teacher, is credited with shaping the careers of many Indian economists.

The centre aims to become an internationally recognised centre of excellence in economic studies, attracting the best of students and teachers in India. They will specialise in planning, macroeconomics, and public economics, including fiscal federalism.

Centre of excellence

Rajan Gurukkal, vice-chancellor, told The Hindu-EducationPlus that the primary objective of the centre was to create a centre of excellence in economics with specialisation in planning and public finance.

He said the centre would act as an institution for teaching and research, leading to the award of postgraduate, M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees.

The centre would organise research and consultancy in the areas of planning, macroeconomics, fiscal federalism, Centre-State financial relations, and public debt of the Centre and the State.

Training ground

Dr. Gurukkal said the centre would be a place for training government officials and civil servants in the area of Centre-State financial relations. It would train people's representatives in the area of public expenditure, taxation, the public debt of the Centre, the States, and the local bodies, and government policies.

He said the economics programmes at the postgraduate and research levels in the universities lacked the theoretical rigour and institutional support to analyse critically the neo-liberal economic policies in the Third World countries. Planning — theory and praxis — at all levels (State, Centre, and local) had to be rearticulated in the context of the neo-liberal economic policies.

Public finance

“Public finance, including Centre-State financial relations, is an important area of study that has been greatly influenced by the current policy changes in the economy. The neo-liberal economic policies adopted in the country have added a new dimension to the discourse on Centre-State financial relations. The devolution of resources and power from the Centre to sub-national units under the aegis of the Planning Commission, the Finance Commission, and the Central Ministries has been an integral part of this discourse,” he said.

Dr. Gurukkal said it was unfortunately true that today there were very few schools where teaching and research in economics met the best international standards.

“On the other hand, the services of well-trained, competent economists are in great demand, and the demand is expected to grow exponentially with the rapid growth and globalisation of the economy. The number of young economists being produced by the shrinking number of centres of excellence is far from adequate to meet this rapid growth in demand for high-quality professionals from the public and private sectors, in addition to meeting the needs of universities,” he said.

Funds

The university has decided to seek financial assistance from the Union and the State governments for starting the academic activities of the centre. An eminent academic will be its director.

G. Krishnakumar