Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Saturday, Jun 19, 2004
Industry & Economy
`Sustain economic growth for human development'
Mr Julian Schweitzer
New Delhi , June 18
THOUGH India has made good strides in human development over the last 10 years, there is a huge challenge ahead and if there is a political will, the problems can be solved, given the enormous intellectual and management capacity and knowledge the country possesses, according to a senior official of the World Bank.
In an interview to Business Line, the Bank's Director, Human Development, South Asia Region, Mr Julian Schweitzer, who was here from Washington to attend a two-day workshop, said, "You can't have human development without sustainable economic growth. You can't have sustainable economic growth without human development. The two are absolutely linked together".
Mr Schweitzer said that the policy had to be focussing both on growth objective which is a good business climate and welfare objective which is to ensure that the benefits of growth reach the poorest section.
As India has probably 300 million people below the poverty line and as many of the problems are concentrated in a group of States, really the focus has to be on those places where the biggest problems exist, while at the same time consolidating the gains notched up by States like Karnataka which has done well in bringing down infant mortality and maternal mortality rates.
He said the challenge was to replicate the success in States such as Bihar, Orissa and Rajasthan. Public sector alone cannot deliver the services, even as it has to play a key role to maintain surveillance and monitor and provide services to the truly poor. But it does not have to deliver the public services, as these could be delivered by non-governmental organisations and local bodies.
Mr Schweitzer maintains that there are other ways to make sure that the poor get free services by providing subsidies to the group of people who need them, as opposed to general population.
The evidence of user charge in hospitals in some of the southern States has been to provide the health providers with some revenues they need to maintain their hospitals. Here the issue is, he said, as to how "you can finance these services locally." That is why, he said, "All our projects in social area tend to involve civil society in one way or another through consultations. We are trying to learn the best practices from civil society. There are very many NGOs directly delivering services in very difficult circumstances. We don't need to reinvent the wheel. We can build on that and learn."
Mr Schweitzer said the World Bank was collaborating with the Government to explore different modalities with the idea being to separate the concept of financing and the concept of delivery.
"It is often clear that the Government has a role in financing the services and not so obvious that the Government necessarily has a role in directly delivering the services. Private providers or NGOs can deliver these services more efficiently. The Government has to set standards, monitor and do surveillance but have a different infrastructure with which to ensure that services do get delivered and the public gets the value for money," he added. India's public expenditure in basic education and primary health was quite low. Hence, poverty reduction has to be looked at holistically.
"You can't do poverty reduction just by thinking of spending. You have to increase investment, tax base and wealth. As revenues rise and as the economy grows, India will have greater opportunities to increase its expenditure on primary health and basic education so that you move rapidly in the next generation from having a very large proportion of children not in school or dropping out before reaching the age of eleven and not having immunised even today to a situation where you say that the problem is solved".
He said the focus should be on empowering women and ensuring that they are educated, with more opportunities being thrown open to them through micro-credit schemes.
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