World Bank lauds reforms in public services

Mumbai, May 17 | Updated: May 18 2006, 05:30am hrs
The latest World Bank report on Reforming Services in India: Drawing lessons from success has praised the government for implementing large scale reforms of the public service delivery mechanism in various states across the country despite a poor overall outcome in service delivery and systemic problems that are yet to be resolved.

The report prepared by Vikram K Chand, senior public sector management specialist, The World Bank, took into account 25 case studies from different states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.

These reforms took hold, despite serious systemic obstacles to improving public delivery systems. These systemic obstacles include over-staffing, frequent transfer of public servants, weak anti-corruption enforcement mechanism and the need for electoral financing reform, Mr Chand said.

The report noted that the weakness of accountability mechanisms is a barrier to improving services across the board and bureaucratic complexity making it difficult for the ordinary citizen to navigate the system for his or her benefit.

The lack of accountability, in turn, provides opportunity for corruption. India was ranked 90th in Transparency Internationals Corruption Perception Index in 2005, the report said.

World Bank took into account 25 case studies from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat
Weakness of accountability mechanisms is a barrier to improving services
India was ranked 90th in Transparency Internationals Corruption Perception Index

The enabling environment for which the reforms took place, Mr Chand pointed out is the role of political leadership. The political leadership influenced the kind of reforms pursued in several states like Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. For example, consensus across party lines facilitated reforms to improve programme delivery in Tamil Nadu and electoral incentives motivated political leaders to support change in Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh, he said.

The report cites the example of decentralization in Surat, after the city was hit by the plague, freed the municipal commissioner to focus on policy issues and empowered zonal commissioners on the ground to deal with fast changing situation. Similarly, the decentralisation of teacher management in Madhya Pradesh, boosted school enrollment in a fiscally constraint setting.