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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.
Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometric ID program, is at a crossroads. After a remarkable effort to enroll almost the entire Indian population of 1.25 billion in just over half a decade, its impact on privacy and distribution public benefits are being called into question.
As world leaders gather to kick off the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, CGD’s experts weigh in to shed some light on the ongoing debates, with innovative evidence-based solutions to the world’s most urgent challenges, and also discuss what’s not on the agenda but should be.
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.
India’s reform of household subsidies for the purchase of LPG cooking gas stands out for a several reasons. The paper provides a detailed picture of the reform through its various stages, including how the process was conceptualized, coordinated, and implemented. It analyzes how such a reform must be able to adapt to concerns as they arise and to new information, how digital technology was used and how it is possible to use a voluntary self-targeting “nudge” to defuse potential resistance to income-based targeting.
India’s tax revenue distribution reform creates the world’s first ecological fiscal transfers (EFTs) for forest cover, and a potential model for other countries. In this paper we discuss the origin of India’s EFTs and their potential effects. In a simple preliminary analysis, we do not yet observe that the EFTs have increased forest cover across states, consistent with our hypothesis that one to two years of operation is too soon for the reform to have had an effect. This means there remains substantial scope for state governments to protect and restore forests as an investment in future state revenues.
The biometrics revolution has allowed more countries to create strong ID systems for their citizens. These systems have mostly relied on fingerprinting, but with the advent of low-cost, highly effective iris readers this is about to change.
Most money and responsibility for health in large federal countries like India rests with subnational governments — states, provinces, districts, and municipalities. The policies and spending at the subnational level affect the pace, scale, and equity of health improvements in countries that account for much of the world’s disease burden: India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
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.
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 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.