I began my professional career as a sub-district and district level administrator in India-a position that makes one responsible for pretty much everything- from making sure the water comes out of the taps and the garbage is collected in the morning to helping pull accident victims out from horrific accidents and facing down stone-pelting mobs. This early experience of being thrown into the deep end of the pool gives me a somewhat pragmatic sense of perspective and equanimity. But I still recall the horror and overwhelming grief that I felt when the full impact of the 2004 Tsunami started becoming clear. In Indonesia alone approximately 220,000 people lost their lives.
My mother Manel Kirtisinghe encapsulated what the loss of a loved in the tsunami meant, when she wrote in her diary “What you deeply in your heart possess, you cannot lose by death." On 26 Dec. 2004, Prasanna went away leaving behind for me a lasting vacuum and a silent aching grief.”
Prasanna was my brother and this year when we observe religious rituals in memory of him, my mother will not be there with us. She left us earlier this year. Prasanna was our bulwark and the trauma of his death was so intensely felt that it took us seven years to rebuild and return to our beloved house. My mother was happy to be back in the house she had come to as a bride in 1944, but she stubbornly refused to go to the back verandah or to walk on the beach - a ritual she did twice a day before the tsunami.
As my mother did, we all had our coping mechanisms to handle the pain. The grief is still with me hastily boxed and lodged inside me but about this time of the year the lid flies open and the horror spills out. The images gradually become more vivid, intense, horrifying. Like a slow moving movie, they appear…and the nightmares return.
A decade of elevated oil prices brought prosperity to many developing countries. Incomes rose, poverty shrank, macroeconomic buffers were rebuilt. The fiscal space for investing more in education and infrastructure increased, resulting in better sharing of prosperity. At the same time, higher commodity prices and surging global demand resulted in much more concentrated exports in all developing oil-rich countries. "Diversifying exports" became a priority for policy makers and development economists around the world. Historical experience and evidence to the contrary from successful resource rich countries notwithstanding, many widely believe that a more diversified export structure should be an important national goal and may well be a synonym for development, a goal that government can target and achieve. And a more diversified export structure typically meant a smaller share of commodity exports in total shipments abroad or a reduced concentration – as measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschmann index – of exports.
Back in the 1930s, Sri Lanka thought it would be a good idea to give everyone free access to health care. More than 75 years later, as the global health community bangs the drum for universal health coverage (UHC), Sri Lankans can be forgiven for letting out a yawn and wondering what all the fuss is about. But as shown by a workshop organized in Colombo last week to mark the first World UHC Day, the concept of universal health coverage (“all people receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship”) does still have relevance here.
Start with the history. By 1960 Sri Lanka’s health indicators were already well above the curve for its income level, and it was close to having the best health outcomes in developing Asia. It started the MDG era in 1990 with a level of child mortality that was lower than where most Asian countries – including Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, and its South Asian neighbors India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – will finish it in 2015. Vaccination rates are above 99%. And all this was achieved without results-based financing, conditional cash transfers, or today’s other proposed silver bullet solutions for improving health.
A year ago, we polled Future Development bloggers for predictions on the coming year (2014). Looking back, we find that many unforeseen (and possibly unforeseeable) events had major economic impact.
We missed the developments in Ukraine and Russia, the spread of the Islamic State in Iraq, the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the collapse in oil prices and their attendant effects on economic growth. At the same time, we picked the winner of the soccer World Cup, and got many of the technology trends right. Perhaps economists are better at predicting non-economic events.
Here’s the scorecard on the seven predictions made:
- Private Sector Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Global Economy
- South Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- Egypt, Arab Republic of
- Central African Republic
- South Sudan
- Russian Federation
- United States
And Why I’m Much Older than I Thought I was
When my kids became teenagers I began to feel old: I saw myself as fit, healthy and (relatively) young but they, clearly, didn’t and it began to be un-cool to be around them. I’m now in my 40s in a world that is growing older and older (the global life expectancy is now at 72) … so what’s the big deal?
I may be young in absolute terms but definitely not in relative ones! If you’re my age – 43 years – there are 5.1 billion (in a world of almost 7.3 billion) youngsters for whom that’s old. Seen otherwise, you are part of the world's 30 percent oldest people! It was a long time ago that I was in the middle of the global age distribution: today the “median human” is only 29 years old.
The use of technology to improve productivity continues to evolve. In Modern Times, Tramp had to keep up with the crazy pace of the assembly line; in contemporary public administrations, employees have to comply with what is mandated by monitoring and reporting technologies; in today’s World Bank — I’m exaggerating a bit — we are asked to record everything we do in the multiple Bank systems. A legitimate question to ask is whether the reliance on monitoring and reporting technologies improves service delivery or, instead, whether it forces motivated civil servants or employees to waste time “feeding the beast”.
Though the Indian government has steadily increased funding for its health sector, per capita allocation is still low; reform is thus critical to effectively utilize the available budget.
The underlying question is: Given a set of resources, how do you procure goods in a way that achieves value for money and maximum efficiency?
Drugs and medical supplies are not procured and distributed in time, and this interruption in the delivery of services in health facilities affect the general population’s health outcomes.
Development depends on how well resources are spent. So, how can we truly follow the money from the moment that it is delivered all the way through how it is spent? How can we gather the data necessary to make informed decisions about the resources that drive development?
Connecting data from revenue generation through spending is key to tracking resources. If we have open data about development assistance, as well as open data about public contracting, and we can connect that data, we will be better able to have the information necessary to ensure that resources are spent more effectively and efficiently.
The efforts of the Open Aid Partnership (OAP) to collect and disclose aid data, and the recent release of the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) provide an unprecedented opportunity to "follow the money".
More than 200 high-level federal and state officials in India will convene on December 11 in New Delhi, for the India National Open Data and Open API Conference. The conference is organized by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) in the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in the Government of India and National Informatics Centre (NIC).
Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Honorable Minister of Communications and Information Technology, will deliver the keynote address. The World Bank is pleased to support this event and to bring leading international experts — including Jeanne Holm, Senior Open Data Consultant at the World Bank and former evangelist for the U.S. Government's Data.gov, and Laura Manley, Project Manager of Open Data 500 at GovLab in New York University — to share knowledge and hold discussions about the advancement of India’s Open Data initiative.
Over the course of the conference, participants will discuss India’s Open Data policy and platform, gain insights of the officials from several federal and state agencies, and hear about latest best practices on Open API policy. Social aspects, including community engagement with Open Government data, will also be covered.