Developing India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands: A Test of Governance

By Amy Chang

This July, Indian Prime Minister Modi’s government approved the use of the Swiss Challenge Model (SCM) as part of an effort to increase private sector investment for the renovation of 400 railways across the country. SCM is a form of public procurement in which the government publicizes unsolicited bids for projects and invites third party actors to match or exceed them.  Later in October, the SCM was also adopted to develop the Andaman and Nicobar Islands—a cluster of islands due east of India in the Bay of Bengal.

The decision to adopt the SCM comes against the backdrop of a sharp plunge in private sector investment for infrastructure projects in India, and the government hopes it will help cut red tape and increase efficiency by allowing local companies and investors to craft proposals in line with their capabilities and needs. There are, however, serious concerns regarding the level of accountability that the SCM process requires, particularly when dealing with projects where public authorities have limited knowledge and experience.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands remain largely ecologically and socially untouched by the outside world.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands remain largely untouched by the outside world.

The World Bank estimates that India needs $1.7 trillion to fund its infrastructure gap by 2020, but current levels of funding are insufficient to cover that cost: Private investment in infrastructure fell from $23.8 billion in 2012 to $3.6 billion last year. Under the SCM, companies present an unsolicited proposal to the government, and then the project is opened to other third-party bidders. The original proposer then has the right to counter-match any final offer. The SCM invites private investors to formulate their own projects, while still encouraging competition through an open bidding process. Continue reading

Mobile App Helps Women Report Abuse in India

By Melanie Abzug

Responding to India’s high rate of violence against women and low rate of reporting, a Mumbai NGO recently launched an Android app that enables virtual reporting of incidents by trained volunteers. Part of the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Actions (SNEHA)’s “Little Sister Project” with UNDP, the app is called EyeWatch. It began operations in Mumbai’s multi-ethnic Dharavi slum in 2014.

In India 43.6 percent of gender-related crimes are committed by a husband or relative of the victim. This fact, along with societal stigmas applied to victims of sexual assault, often discourages reporting. SNEHA’s initiative seeks to encourage reporting while providing complementary training for women and building cooperation with the police. The initiative has trained 160 local women called “sanginis” so far on how to properly identify and report cases of violence. Sanginis can use their mobile devices to record incidents they witness on the spot. In other cases they are approached by survivors or hear about incidents and then approach the women to provide assistance with reporting. Survivors are also connected with trained professionals who offer medical and legal support.

In slums like Dharavi, it can be difficult to deliver public goods and services.  Apps like EyeWatch can help bridge this gap.

In slums like Dharavi, it can be difficult to deliver public goods and services– apps like EyeWatch can help bridge this gap.

In addition, 4,500 police officers and more than 2,100 public hospital staff have been trained to identify domestic abuse. Incidents are stored in SNEHA’s database, which helps the organization map violence assist NGOs to understand the situation in the community. Continue reading

The Indian Diaspora Investment Initiative: Leveraging Remittances for Development

By Simone Schenkel

President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greet attendees of the U.S.-India CEO Forum  in New Delhi, India. Photo Courtesy of the White House Photo via Pete Souza.

In a recent trip to India, President Obama announced the creation of the Indian Diaspora Investment Initiative, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Calvert Foundation partnership that allows Indian-Americans to use would-be remittances to support key sectors such as financial inclusion, health, education, and agriculture.

While remittances have long been viewed as critical to supporting low-income countries, most funds are transmitted directly to households rather than to community resources. Through this public-private partnership, investors large and small will be able purchase Community Investment Notes later this year through the Calvert Foundation to fund a variety of social enterprise projects. Continue reading

Weekly Roundup

This week in development…

U.S. Development Policy/International Organizations

  • In light of Davos, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim reflects on the state of the global economy. Kim points out that the predicted growth of the world’s economy is lower than initially estimated and notes the “uncertain [economic] environment.” He brings up the challenges but also the potential solutions for the global economy going forward, all while emphasizing the importance of working together.
  • At a discussion of the post-2015 development agenda on Monday, 10 top UN human rights experts stressed the need to make human rights and accountability a major focus of the SDGs. The experts urged Member States to include explicit references to freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly in goal 16 of the SDGs.
  • The international vaccine alliance GAVI raised around $7.5 billion to immunize around 300 million children in developing countries by the year 2020 at a donor conference in Berlin. The largest single donor was the United Kingdom, which pledged $1.573 billion. The second leading donor was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ($1.550 Billion) followed by Norway and the United States.

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Weekly Roundup

This week in development…

U.S. Development Policy/International Organizations

  • As the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches, access to sanitation and safe drinking water remains the ‘least improved’ A recent UN report found that 2.5 billion people lack access to basic sanitation facilities, while 1.8 billion people use contaminated water sources.
A water kiosk in Chipata, Zambia providing clean and sanitary water.

A water kiosk in Chipata, Zambia providing clean and sanitary water.

  • United Nation’s Population Fund (UNPF) recently released a major report on the State of the World Population. The report focuses on the economic potential of the 1.8 billion ‘youth bulge’, referring to the large global youth population many of whom are unemployed. The report estimates Africa’s growth to boost by a third if the continent invests enough in the younger generation. PPD earlier this year launched the Global Youth Wellbeing Index highlighting policies needed to capitalize on these demographic changes.

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