Caught on the wrong chair

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- Two ministries of the Union government have been left with considerable egg on their faces for exulting prematurely on reports that N K Singh, the colourful additional secretary of the department of economic affairs (DEA), had been "unanimously elected" as the first chairperson of the executive council of the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Clarifications from the GEF denied the reports 2 days later, pointing out that the actual incumbent would be the World Bank environmental expert, Mohammed Al-Ashry. In the meanwhile, however, several spokespersons of DEA as well as the ministry of environment and forests (MEF) had already gone to town proclaiming that India would obtain more liberal assistance from the GEF for the coming 2 years "with an Indian at the helm".

Inter-ministerial rivalry was soon evident as well. DEA officials asserted that Singh's supposed appointment was evidence of the international endorsement of their able management of economic reform in the country. "Obviously we have been able to convince international bodies that we are capable of administering the restructuring of the principal financial mechanism for international environmental cooperation as well", said one of them. Their counterparts in the MEF, on the other hand, argued that Singh's appointment was more the success of hectic lobbying by their minister, Kamal Nath.

Even as news went around that Singh had only co-chaired a 2-day meet of the GEF executive council, it could not dampen the aspirations of the Indian civil servants. Seniors from both the ministries have agreed to cooperate to ensure that one of them is a strong contender for the post the next time around. The irony, of course, is that Al-Ashry has been appointed permanent chairperson.

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