Dr Alexander Evans, the British Deputy High Commissioner to India, visited the CPPR office in Kochi on June 22, 2017, for an interaction with a group of public policy professionals, lawyers and academics. The interaction centred on a wide range of topics concerning Kerala, including public policy, political economy, infrastructure, health and education. Rudy Fernandez, Head, Political, Economic, Press & Public Affairs, accompanied Dr Evans.
Dr Evans, who steered the conversation, shared his knowledge of current Indian and Kerala politics. He showed keen interest in learning the scope of public policy research in Kerala and about other public policy think tanks in the state. He was also interested to know if there were emphasis on data and evidence in Kerala politics.
The British diplomat stressed on the potential of public policy think tanks in conducting futuristic data analytic studies on key financial parameters of the state. He said that it would be interesting to find out the economic and social implications of a dip in foreign remittances by 20 per cent or an increase in State revenue by 5–10 per cent in the next 20 years.
Madhu S, Project Consultant, CPPR, made some relevant points on the recent changes in the government’s approach to policymaking and its focus on data and evidence. He spoke of CPPR’s efforts to focus on issues that are relevant to South Indian states.
Deepthi Mary Mathew, Research Associate, CPPR, said that foreign remittances, especially from Gulf countries, formed the backbone of the Kerala economy. She added that 70 per cent of the State’s revenue went towards salaries and pensions.
Jithin Paul Varghese, Advocate & Legal Consultant, brought to the table the success of the Right to Information (RTI) movement in Kerala, which has granted better access to evidence and data in policymaking.
Sara John, Project Associate, CPPR, raised a valid point about Minimum Support Price (MSP) and lack of awareness about MSP in Kerala. She added to the general impression among the group that Kerala is in a transitional phase, where people are starting to look at numbers, data and evidence.
Professor K C Abraham, Academic Director, CPPR, spoke about the think tanks in the state and their political affiliations. He added that CPPR, being independent and unbiased, was striving to make a difference in policymaking in Kerala.
Sherylene Rafeeque, Consultant Editor, CPPR, noted the challenges that CPPR faced in moulding effective communication strategies. She talked about the shifting career aspirations of the youth in Kerala.
Saritha Varma, HR Consultant, CPPR, touched on the challenges in sourcing talent for think tanks. She also spoke of the start up villages in Kerala and the low employability of Indian engineers, which has resulted in a downturn in IT hiring.
The interaction ended with Dr Evans, a former public policy researcher, listing out three points of learning to be a successful public policy think tank – have an engaging set of external advisors, make communication about your work fun and compelling, identify areas that actually matter and work on them.