October 3, 2005

India worse than Africa in sanitation: WB

Infrastructure Is Leading Impediment To Biz Growth, Investment In Sector Falling’

By Hemali Chhapia/TNN

Bangalore: In India, access to water is intermittent in all major cities. For instance, no major city with a population of more than one million has a 24-hour supply. Access levels range from below 60 per cent in states like Mizoram and Kerala to close to 100 per cent in Punjab and Delhi.
   Utilities responsible for service provision remains almost universally in the public sector, characterised by inefficiencies and weak governance.
   In terms of improved sanitation facilities, the South Asian region is worse off even than the Sub-Saharan regions. Only 35 per cent of South Asian population have access to improved sanitation facilities.
   In contrast to other regions, regional integration in infrastructure across South Asia has been slow, mirroring slow growth.
   These are some of the observations in the September 2005 development committee report of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. They are for the South Asian region in general and for India in particular. The report says: “In the last decade, infrastructure investment in most developing countries has fallen significantly, driven by the declining public and private investment. In fact, there is a lack of balance between spending for infrastructure and for other purposes.’’
   Closer home, the report states: “Investment climate surveys routinely show infrastructure as a leading impediment to business growth, with shortcomings in electricity service identified as the greatest obstacle to business operation, above corruption and taxes... There lies a huge challenge of correcting for the huge infrastructure gaps that threaten growth and the achievement of other social and development goals.’’
   The report says infrastructure investment needed to keep up with the projected growth in the developing world is estimated to be equivalent to 5.5 per cent of the developing countries’ gross domestic product and between 7 per cent and 9 per cent for lower-income countries. “Approximately half of this investment will be required for new infrastructure investment and approximately half for maintenance of existing assets.’’
   The development committee members said the infrastructure quality in South Asia is relatively low as compared to other regions and “hundreds of millions of people have no access to basic services’’. While access to power ranges from 6 per cent in Afghanistan to 98 per cent in Costa Rica, it is 64 per cent in Sri Lanka. On India, the says access to water supply and sanitation levels range from 60 per cent in most eastern and southern cities; levels fall drastically as one moves interior.
   Stating that corruption is also a concern that is impacting infrastructure delivery, a dire need has been felt for “regional infrastructure integration and energy trade in the entire South Asian region’’. While such coordination is poor in India, it is evident why Shanghai is today known for its infrastructure. It says: “Within less than 20 years, previously centralised state structures have been significantly decentralised in East Asia and Pacific region. Sub-national government expenditure as a percentage of total public expenditure now ranges from 10% in Thailand to close to 70% in China.’’


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