MMA-KAS Covid and 'New Normal' in Governance with Mr Arun Maira

- held on Monday, 10 August 2020

Madras Management Association(MMA) in collaboration with the India Office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung(KAS)presented a live talk through webinaron the theme,“Covid and ‘New Normal’ in Governance”by Mr Arun Maira, Thought Leader, Author, former Member of Planning Commission of India and former India Chairman of Boston Consulting Group on Monday, 10 August 2020


While the pandemic has hit public health, economy and every other aspect of human life, it has also impacted the larger and minor aspects of governance at all levels- From the political leadership and policy making at the top to implementation at the State and grassroots levels. How can we institutionalise the lessons learnt?


Group Captain R Vijayakumar (Retd), VSM, Executive Director of MMA initiated the programme and introduced the speakers.   Mr P Ravichandran, President, MMA and President, India Region, Danfoss Industries Ltd delivered the welcome address.


Mr Peter Rimmele, Resident Representative to India of KAS delivered the introductory remarks in which he pointed out that the Covid pandemic has changed the civil services around the world; it has led to increased digitization in governance and given the civil services and government structures at all levels, unprecedented powers.The most important change is the shift to home office wherever it is technically feasible, he said and remarked that the German government, though reluctant to introduce innovation in governance has adopted ‘WFH’ and e-governance and found the model to be beneficial. 


While the government increased its surveillance on people with the aim of safeguarding their health and protecting the interest of the nation, it has also resulted in disenchantment with policing, he said and stressed the need for keeping a tab on executive controls through parliamentary mechanisms.


Mr Arun Maira in his address brilliantly exposed the flawed model of governance that nations followed,linking economic growth to merely GDP and stock market performance, completely neglecting sustainable development.He added that India, in particular, ranked poorly in sustainable development. “Sustainable development depends on 17 goals,” he said and pitched for metrics on these 17 goals as suggested by the United Nations.


He pointed out how the Covid pandemic has brought our bus journey of ‘ambitious economic growth at all costs’ to a screeching halt. He lamented that our crisis solutions are too focused on health issues and this approach could create major problems elsewhere. He cited the case of schools being shut indefinitely in many places and how this could affect the future of children.


He also said that globalization benefitted only the wealthy and let down the poor. Our craze for specialized knowledge in every field and use of scientific management to manage even Nature has seriously backfired, he opined. “We need to change the paradigm of spreading the best and forgetting the rest; we need to think of localized solutions rather than globalized solutions; instead of thrusting our solutions on people, we need to scale up people’s ability to find solutions for their problems; we need to change from machine way of overpowering nature to nature’s way of organising itself,” he said. 


His prescription for effective governance in the new normal revolved around 5 important aspects which are stated below:

  • What we measure is what we manage. Companies now measure only profits and shareholder value to assess their growth. But they should include many more indicators to assess their impact on ecology and all other stakeholders. Governmentsmust keep their eyes not only on the GDP but on the well-being of all citizens and Nature.


  • ‘Systems thinking’ needs us to ‘unfocus’ rather than focus; in the latter, we miss the wood for the trees. 


  • Listen to people who are not like us and who don’t think like us.


  • Change must be more of a bottom-up rather than a top-down process.


  • Think of only the impact on the poorest people, as Gandhiji said, whenever any policy decision is made. Poor people are not mere numbers but they are the source of energy and solutions that the world needs.  


Group Captain R Vijayakumar(Retd), VSM moderated a Q&A session where questions from online viewers were taken up with Mr Arun Maira, at the end of which he proposedthe vote of thanks. The event concluded at 7.30 pm.



Peter Rimmele