Unlike previous years, when the finance minister and the Reserve Bank of India governor were its biggest names, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the event this year.
The theme of this year's conclave is Realising India's JAM (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) Vision. It will focus on the government's commitment to provide essential government services through JAM. Essentially, the discussions will focus on existing programmes and policy.
This compares with previous gatherings, which dealt with forward-looking but ambiguous topics such as structural reforms and growth and India's agenda for the next five years.
The conclave will also be attended by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, the chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Kerala, Niti Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya and former UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani.
The day-long discussions will focus on topics as varied as the Indian and international experience in cash transfers, benefits and risks of biometric authentication, beneficiaries' experiences with technology-based targeting, financial inclusion, perspective of the states and the vision for JAM's future.
The conclave comes at a time when JAM has become the focus of many government policy programmes. The government is in the process of convincing the Supreme Court to expand the use of Aadhaar after being allowed its use for employment guarantee, pension and social schemes apart from cash transfers for cooking fuel and grain subsidies.
By October, more than 190 million accounts have been opened under the Jan Dhan scheme, with only 38 per cent being zero-balance accounts. The government wants to ramp up cash transfers to Jan Dhan accounts to include other schemes as well. The conclave will provide a good indication of where some of the centre's flagship schemes are headed.
Officials said preparations for the conclave by a team led by Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian were in full swing. Invitations for the event, especially Modi's inaugural address, are at a premium, with more requests coming in every day. "The prime minister's office wants a full house for the event. It is very involved with the preparations," said an official. The prime minister's speech is being written by Subramanian.
Senior bureaucrats attending the conclave will include Cabinet Secretary Pradeep Sinha, Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das, and Food and Public Distribution Secretary Vrinda Sarup.
Among the foreign dignitaries and economists scheduled to attend the event will be Luis Henrique Paiva, former head of Brazil's successful cash transfer scheme Bolsa Familia, MIT Professor Brian Forde, and Paul Niehaus of the University of San Diego.