The initiation and countrywide implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) represents a milestone in social policy and employment creation with its right based approach and focus on livelihood security. The flagship program has benefitted millions of marginalized rural households by providing them unskilled work and led to prevention of stress migration from rural areas in lean agricultural seasons. A UNDP/Carnegie Endowment for Peace study points out that from the scheme’s first year of operation in 2006-2007 till 2010-2011, job creation accelerated from less than 1 billion workdays distributed amongst 20 million households to 2.5 billion workdays for 50 million households.
In the above context, the 2013 performance audit conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) should be a timely opportunity to analyze the immense management and convergence challenges that a program of MGNREGA’s size poses. This is especially relevant in view of CAG’s observation that undertaking of non permissible works, non completion of works and lack of creation of durable assets during the period 2007-2012 indicated that the poorest were not able to fully exercise their rights under the program.
One of the ‘bottom up’ features’ of the program is its reliance on rural local self government structures i.e. Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) to reinvigorate community driven participation and decision making in service delivery. The first key institutional challenge, therefore, is to make MGNREGA’S program implementation effective by enforcing PRI ‘activity mapping’ (unbundling subjects into smaller units of work and assigning these units to different levels of government) that was set in motion after the historic 73rd Constitutional Amendment, 1993. Herein, the Central Government and the States of the Union, have to jointly actualize the principle of subsidiarity- what can be best done at lower levels of government should not be centralized at higher levels. Empowering PRIs especially Gram Panchayats (last mile units in villages) with funds, functions and functionaries (3F’s) is a critical incentive to build their institutional capacity for service delivery. This, in turn, would provide them the teeth to carry out their core responsibilities under MGNREGA such as planning of works, registration of beneficiaries, allotting employment, executing works, making timely payments, maintaining records of measurement and muster rolls.
Wanted: Mobile apps for African agriculture (Credit: infoDev)
Today, there are close to 900 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa. Sixty-five percent of the continent’s labor force works in agriculture or related sectors and it accounts for 32% of the gross domestic product. Mobile innovations are already improving efficiencies in the agricultural value chain; research shows that grain traders with mobile application usage experienced income growth of 29% and banana farmers in Uganda saw their revenues go up with 36%.
The mAgri Challenge, a business competition, has been designed to identify and support entrepreneurs developing mobile apps for agriculture in Africa. If you have worked with mobile tech entrepreneurs in Africa over the last few years, you might be thinking: “Not another mobile apps challenge!” This ‘competition fatigue’ is not completely unwarranted. Too many quick competitions for mobile apps, which at first seemed cool and generated lots of attention, have left in their wake a pool of mobile entrepreneurs confused about the next steps they can take to grow their business.
To most of us, Salzburg is known as the birthplace of Mozart and the Sound of Music. But the city is also host to another global institution, much less well known yet influencing thinking around the world. For over 60 years, the Salzburg Global Seminar has been “convening imaginative thinkers from different cultures and institutions,” providing a space for people from all walks of life to “challenge present and future leaders to solve issues of global concern.” Past speakers at Salzburg include our own President Jim Yong Kim (by video link).
I recently returned from four days in Salzburg, participating in a seminar on “New thinking for Sustainability,” a joint initiative with the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Governance for Sustainability. The organizers did a great job bringing together a wide range of thinkers and practitioners from 26 countries. Participants ranged from a local government official in Pakistan to a former Mexican presidential candidate; from a young Thai researcher at the beginning of her career to a former secretary general of the Club of Rome looking back on decades of experience.
Opinions about the actions needed to face the challenges of the 21st century were almost equally diverse. Some participants emphasized the need for action at the local level, others stressed the crucial role of private sector, others still passionately argued that feasible solutions can only come through a strong state.
Yet a number of general principles seem to have found wide agreement (my own summary):
Data openness is receiving considerable interest globally over recent years. Several countries and organizations are engaged in global discussions in this area. The International Budget Partnership (IBP) is one of the largest forums for these discussions.
In April 2010, the World Bank made its development data available for download free of charge.(2) The Open Development Technology Alliance(3) (also known as the ICT Knowledge Platform) was created to enhance accountability and improve the delivery and quality of public services through technology-enabled citizen engagement (e.g. using mobile phones, interactive-mapping and social media). The World Bank is also one of the international financial institutions taking the lead in the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT) - an initiative that promotes budget transparency, public participation, and accountability globally.(4) BOOST is another useful tool developed by the World Bank for transforming detailed government expenditure data from FMIS databases into an easy-to-understand data set (XLS) for detailed analysis through pivot tables and geo-mapping tools.
Financial Inclusion advocate Queen Maxima pushed the FATF to consider financial inclusion (Credit: Haags Uitburo)
Monarchs seem mostly untroubled by financial concerns, but Queen Maxima of the Netherlands has made the workings and regulations of those excluded from the formal banking sector a personal issue. Queen Maxima recently attended a plenary meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) - the first reigning Queen to be present at such a gathering, in order to raise concerns and bring change on a subject that has become a passion for her – and the World Bank Group: financial inclusion. Queen Maxima is the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development. In this role, she had already called on the FATF to pay more attention to financial inclusion, and how it relates to financial integrity. In June 2010, at the initiative of the then Dutch Presidency of the FATF, the then Princess Maxima pressed a reluctant FATF plenary in Amsterdam to recognize how ill-designed financial integrity requirements affect financial inclusion by keeping people outside the formal banking sector, and how this can raise the risk of money laundering and terrorist financing.
Now, after a a week’s intensive animation workshop from the best in the business, she is on the best path to a career and is looking forward to a summer program scholarship at Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada.
- sheridan college
- kira clayton
- toon boom
- Social Development
- Private Sector Development
- Global Economy
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Virgin Islands, British
- Trinidad and Tobago
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- St. Lucia
- St. Kitts and Nevis
- St. Helena
- Bahamas, The
- Antigua and Barbuda
The recently launched report by the High Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda puts forward that the post-2015 agenda needs to be driven by five big, transformative shifts. The first one it highlights is that the new agenda should leave no one behind. It states that:
“We should ensure that no person – regardless of ethnicity, gender, geography, disability, race or other status – is denied universal human rights and basic economic opportunities. We should design goals that focus on reaching excluded groups.”
Clearly, the world will have to pay particular attention to slum-dwellers, who are left behind in many areas of development and in the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
"For two centuries and more, since the French Revolution inaugurated the romance of the streets, it has been easier to start revolutions than to finish them, to take down despotisms than to construct constitutional democracies."
- Simon Schama, Professor of History and Art History at Columbia University, New York. He is the author of numerous award-winning books, and has written more than thirty documentaries.