New Delhi, May 5 (IANS) Public services such as clean water, sanitation, healthcare, and schooling in many Asian countries, particularly in South Asia, are failing frequently to reach the needy, widening the region’s already sharp disparity between the rich and the poor, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) study.
The delivery and quality of public services have lagged the meteoric growth rates seen in many economies in the region, it says, examining the challenges state providers face in delivering quality basic services to low income groups, and the potential for giving disadvantaged communities more power over service delivery.
In South Asia, for example, access to primary schooling has grown substantially over the past decade, but there is no evidence of improved access to public health services, and there is very little progress in the provision of improved sanitation and water sources.
Services are often shrouded in heavy national bureaucracy that impedes efficiency.
The report, Empowerment and Public Service Delivery in Developing Asia and the Pacific, launched at the just concluded 46th Annual General Meeting of ADB, says service delivery across the region is mixed.
Turning the present situation around will require state institutions to be far more responsive to demands for services and much more focussed on targeting support for those genuinely in need. Creative solutions must be explored, such as contracting out the delivery of some public services to private parties and non-government organizations, broader adoption of new communications technologies, and a possible shift to a cash-based social assistance transfer system.
Giving communities more say and power over service provision will require legal and institutional arrangements which encourage citizen participation, as well as the necessary capacity-building support and resources. Ensuring citizens have information on services and understand their entitlement to them is also essential.
Few countries in the region have enshrined the right of citizens to information on basic services, although India became the exception with the passage of the Right of Information Act in 2005.
The study says improvements are surely needed to avoid further widening of the rich-poor divide.
“Empowering communities can certainly improve service delivery, but this needs to go hand in hand with a change in the way the state does business,” said ADB Chief Economist Changyong Rhee.