A potent mix

Jaipal Reddy's shift offers an opportunity to weave technology and innovation more strongly into the fabric of petroleum policy

The day after the cabinet reshuffle, TV and print media spent an inordinate amount of time speculating on why Jaipal Reddy had been shifted from petroleum to science and technology. The commentary was speculative and uninformed and focused on the reasons for Reddy's "demotion". What it failed to point out was that there is, in fact, a healthy and much-required synergy between petroleum and science and technology, and that, were it not for the unwritten pecking order in the cabinet, the shift of a person knowledgeable about petroleum to a portfolio focused on the mainsprings of future energy production could augur well.

I am familiar with the ranking in the cabinet. The ministers of home, defence, external affairs and finance are first tier ó a fact made explicit by their membership of the Cabinet Committee on Security. The others fall into order on the basis of individual seniority as manifest in their proximity to the prime minister around the cabinet table and the financial clout wielded by their ministry. In this regard, the minister of petroleum, with responsibility for a critical part of the economy and with supervisory oversight over the largest, and at one time the wealthiest, of the public sector entities certainly carries more heft than the minister of science and technology. Hence the volley of comment and the wayward speculation.

The message I had hoped the anchors might emphasise was that it is because of government support and investment in science and technology that the world is today reaping the benefits of globalisation and connectivity, and that this particular ministerial reshuffle might therefore offer an opportunity to weave technology and innovation more strongly into the fabric of petroleum policy. The anchors did not make this point, but rather encouraged the panelists to dilute the importance of Reddy's new portfolio.

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