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Governance, Digital ID, Biometrics, Financial Inclusion, Service Delivery, Subsidy Reform, Health Financing
Anit Mukherjee is a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development where he works on issues of governance, public finance, and service delivery in developing countries. His current research focuses on the impact of biometric ID and digital payment systems to reform public subsidies, improve financial inclusion, and promote gender empowerment. Previously, he coordinated a CGD Working Group on Fiscal Transfers for Health that provided recommendations to improve the effectiveness and coordination of health financing in decentralized countries for better outcomes.
Prior to joining CGD, Mukherjee was an associate professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy in New Delhi from 2005-2013 where he designed and implemented innovative citizen-led public expenditure tracking surveys in education and health. As a policy advisor to the world’s largest biometric ID program, Aadhaar, he was involved in the design of direct benefit transfer of subsidies in India. Previously, Mukherjee has served as MDG financing advisor to the Government of Yemen, worked as a consultant for the World Bank and UNAIDS on financing of HIV/AIDS programs in Asia-Pacific, and designed gender-focused social protection as advisor to the Commonwealth Secretariat. Mukherjee studied economics at Presidency College, Calcutta, and Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and obtained a PhD in policy and planning sciences from the University of Tsukuba, Japan. He has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals and has been cited in major news outlets including Bloomberg, BBC, Financial Times, and NPR. His latest book, Social Sector in a Decentralized Economy: India in the Era of Globalization, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2016.
Reducing inequality is front and center of the current economic policy agenda. Multilateral institutions like the IMF and the World Bank have accepted that high inequality leads to macroeconomic instability and lowers growth and that lower inequality helps make growth sustainable in the long run. But there is no magic bullet.
India is getting some serious cash from coal. According to official estimates, the government will get nearly $250 billion in revenues over a period of 30 years from the sale of over two hundred coal blocks to private bidders. Given India’s record of corruption and mismanagement of natural resources, it is difficult to be optimistic that it will be able to cash in on this windfall and use it for development. But there are a few silver linings that may prove us (happily) wrong.
Health is a state rather than national subject in many countries (as we’ve discussed here and here), and in India this tendency has just become more pronounced. Based on the 14th Finance Commission’s recommendations (more here), money coming from the Central government to states will be less tied up and states more free to spend that money in whatever way they want.
India has fallen behind in both health expenditure and health outcomes compared to other lower-middle-income countries. Its burdens of tuberculosis and malaria, and increasingly noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, are one of the largest. Infant mortality and child malnutrition rates rival those in sub-Saharan Africa.
After several starts and stops, the Nigerian government has finally removed fuel subsidies, resulting in an overnight price hike of 67 percent. The economic logic of subsidy reform is clear. What’s notable, and potentially problematic, is that the government is planning to use any savings from lifting the fuel subsidy in the regular budget.
2015 has been the year we have been reminded that there have been major gains in development in many parts of the world, but that hundreds of millions of people still suffer the dangerous consequences of poverty, including high levels of maternal and infant mortality, hunger, illness caused by lack of basic sanitation, and death from easily treatable diseases. How can we improve health systems to make them more effective, as well as less wasteful and more accountable?
In the big decentralized countries where global disease burden is concentrated, such as India and Indonesia, most public money for health isn’t spent by the national ministry of health, the traditional counterpart for global health funders and technical agencies. Instead, most money is programmed and spent subnationally.
Greater subnational public spending reflects growing democratization, power-sharing, and local self-determination. It also responds to the conviction that local decision-makers understand local realities better than a bureaucrat sitting in the capital city. Yet evidence on the effectiveness of subnational spending on health care and outcomes is mixed at best, and incentives for greater spending and better performance can be weak.
When the Upper House of India’s parliament recently passed the landmark Goods and Service Tax (GST) legislation, India finally, after more than six decades of independence, became a truly common market. That could be a game changer for India’s development in the coming years.
For the policymaker looking to improve services and the delivery of benefits, or for the financial institution trying to expand its customer base, the gap between technical solutions and the situation of the average technology user represents fertile ground for the many new opportunities that the digital economy provides.