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Closing the gap in Myanmar: Expanding access to social services

Hnin Hnin Pyne's picture



Myanmar’s people are its greatest resource. Its current young population and growing number of productive workers hold the promise of a demographic dividend and inclusive growth. With a steady pace of economic growth, Myanmar has the potential to get rich before it gets old.
 
For Myanmar to deliver on this potential it can prioritize investing in its people, by strengthening the country's health, education, and social protection systems. Education and health directly improve chances of employment. Individuals who complete more years of schooling earn a higher income.  Improving health, education and social protections – closing the gap – is not a mere by-product of economic development, but is essential to shared prosperity.
 
Myanmar in the early 1960s, poised to be the economic engine of the region, prided itself for having the highest literacy rate in Asia. After decades of underspending and neglect of social services and programs, human development outcomes deteriorated, ranking among the lowest in the region.  Rural and poorer households bore a greater burden of ill health, low educational attainment and vulnerability. 
 
In 2009, a major share of the total education and health spending came from households, 63% and 82% respectively.  This direct out-of-pocket spending, which was one of the highest in the world, prevented people from seeking care and attending school, because they could not afford it. In the case of health, families were made even poorer, as they had to sell their belongings to pay for the care they needed.  And there was no system to protect them. 
 
Even today, social assistance programs only reach 0.1% of the population, compared to 39% among East Asian and the Pacific countries.  This is in part due to extremely low level of social assistance spending, which is only 0.02% of GDP, compared to an average of 1.1% of GDP among low-income countries.
 

‘Aadhaar’ is Reaching India’s Poor, but at What Price?

Johanna Martinsson's picture

Since the Unique Identification Authority of India embarked on its unique identification project (UIDAI) in 2010, an estimated 200 million people have voluntarily enrolled.  As discussed in a previous blog, the UIDAI aims to administer some 1.2 billion unique identification numbers by the end of this decade.  The 12-digit online number, also referred to as Aadhaar (“foundation” in Hindi), is issued upon completion of demographic and biometric information by the enrollees. The number will give millions of Indian residents, previously excluded from the formal economy, the opportunity to access a range of benefits and services, such as banking, mobile, education, and healthcare.  The UIDAI specifically aims to extend social and financial services to the poor, remove corrupt practices plaguing existing welfare databases, eliminate duplicate and fake identities, and hold government officials accountable.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

International IDEA
Do Accountability Mechanisms in Safety Nets Improve Access to Social Services? The case of Brazil’s Bolsa Família

"This paper was part of International IDEA’s work on “Democracy and Development” in 2011. It was selected as a contribution to stimulate debate on and increase knowledge about the impact of democratic accountability on services. A summary of the papers selected and an analysis on some general trends are provided in “Democratic Accountability in Service Delivery: A Synthesis of Case Studies”

The study analyses a semi-governmental mechanism for accountability called social control councils. Through this mechanism beneficiaries are supposed to provide feedback on health and education services. However as beneficiaries have been heavily underrepresented in these councils and membership tends to be skewed towards the local government, they have not been able to function as intended." READ MORE

Mashable
How the Arab World Uses Facebook and Twitter

“Social media has been often touted for the role it played in the popular uprisings that have spread across the Arab world since December 2010. Despite the buzz, you may be surprised that only 0.26% of the Egyptian population, 0.1% of the Tunisian population and 0.04% of the Syrian population are active on Twitter.

Of all the countries in North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter is most popular in Kuwait, where 8.6% of the population is active users, defined as those who tweet at least once per month. Facebook’s more popular throughout the region. In its most popular country, the U.A.E., some 36.18% of the population is on Facebook.” READ MORE