'Kerala's services delivery comparable with developed nations'

Monday, 22 September 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: If Kerala denotes India's success in delivery of health, primary education and other infrastructure services, Uttar Pradesh is just the opposite, says a World Bank report globally released Sunday.

The "World Development Report 2004 -- Making Services Work for the Poor" comes ahead of the annual meet of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) being held in Dubai on September 23 and 24.

The meet will take stock of the progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of halving global poverty and illiteracy by 2015.

"The report comes at a time when rich countries have pledged to increase foreign aid and poor countries have pledged to improve their policies and institutions to try to reach the MDG," said Michael Carter, World Bank country director for India, who released the report here.

"Too often, services fail poor people - in access, in quality and quantity. This imperils a set of development targets known as MDG," the report states.

"Without major improvements in policy, most states in India, for example, will not be able to accomplish this MDG."

Based on a yearlong study of successes and failures in different countries, the authors of the report rate India as a mixed bag.

"While Kerala compares better than several developed countries, there are several pockets in the country like Uttar Pradesh where delivery of services like primary education, gender equality, health and other public server infrastructure have been found lacking," said Shekhar Shah, World Bank sector manager and one of the co-authors of the report.

Despite lagging behind in many areas, India is charting new commendable paths with its multi-tier approach to delivery of services through local governments, an ambitious target of total literacy of small children by 2012 and the largest programme for rural water supply through community participation, said Junaid K. Ahmad, regional team leader for the World Bank's water and sanitation programme in South Asia.

The key to success in public services -- whether education or health and sanitation -- is accountability of the service provider to the government and the public, the report stresses.

Another important factor is how effectively the voice of the people reaches the government, which has an indispensable role in funding and managing services, it states.

It cites the example of Kerala where, unlike in Uttar Pradesh, a primary health centre left un-staffed for even a few days may lead to public protests.

The report notes that while Kerala's success is the result of public action that promoted extensive social opportunities and the widespread, equitable provision of schooling, health and other basic services, Uttar Pradesh's failures can be attributed to the public neglect.

Similarly, gender equality and women's roles have played a big role in Kerala, while the neglect of these aspects have proved detrimental to development in Uttar Pradesh and several other states in the country.

Illustrative of the neglect of public services was a random visit to 200 primary schools in India that revealed that half of them had no teaching activity, World Bank officials said.

"Accountability with incentives and punishments can play an important role in making services accessible to poor people and promoting literacy to remove gender equality," Ahmad said.

Source: IANS
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