Fri, Mar 07, 2014 - Page 9 News List

How to raise Indians’ quality of life

Extreme poverty in the world’s largest democracy is slowly being controlled, but the large portion of those with no access to basic services is even harder to solve

By Subir Gokarn and Anu Madgavkar

With the right set of measures, more than half a billion people could cross the threshold of consumption required for an economically empowered life, and Indians could gain access to more than 80 percent of the basic services they need by 2022. Jobs and productivity growth could contribute 75 percent of the potential gains, while increased public spending alone, without measures to improve its effectiveness, would contribute less than 10 percent.

To realize this potential, policymakers should eliminate arcane regulations that handcuff businesses, accelerate infrastructure projects, make the labor market more flexible, remove market distortions and expand vocational training for the poor and uneducated. At the same time, they should work to place the efficiency of all public spending on par with that in India’s best-performing states.

All of this demands a strong commitment to better governance and a relentless focus on outcomes. Common sense strategies — such as improving coordination among the plethora of ministries and departments that comprise the bureaucracy, and establishing accountable and empowered agencies to deliver results in high-priority areas — could go a long way toward meeting this demand.

Moreover, technology could be used to streamline government services and render them more transparent.

Finally, closer engagement with actors in the private and social sectors and local communities could help to increase efficiency, while reducing the burden on the public sector.

India’s young, dynamic population is demanding a better quality of life. With strong, sustained political will and results-oriented policies, New Delhi can deliver it.

Subir Gokarn, a former deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India, is director of Research at Brookings India. Anu Madgavkar is a senior fellow at the McKinsey Global Institute.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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