Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Development Clashes in India

The Guardian on Polio: "If in India as a whole there are no more confirmed cases before 13 January, the country will have completed its first year without a new victim." That would leave only three countries where polio is endemic: Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. IUPDATE: The Gates Foundation twitter feed informs me that it has taken two million volunteers' time each year to accomplish this. Misunderstandings and religious tension - including the War on Terror - have been heavily involved in why it has taken so long in India:
Equally important in overcoming the last bastions of the disease, as in many parts of the world, has been the consent of local religious figures.
Over the past decade one of the biggest obstacles to polio eradication in India, as in Pakistan and Nigeria, has been the resistance of poor, largely illiterate Muslim communities such as those in and around Moradabad.
Even as the first campaigns got underway in the area in the late 1990s, local clerics began telling congregations that the vaccinations were part of a government plan, backed by the west, to make Muslim women infertile. ...
Torabi said that he had attended immunisation clinics in clerical robes to show "that a common Muslim man is able to trust the programme".
He added: "I told them that in nowhere in the Qur'an is it written that we should be unhealthy, or not take care of our hygiene and that if tomorrow our children are suffering from polio then they will not be able to do the prayers properly. Slowly they understood my point."
NPR has details on a conflict between a South Korean steel company -- that has agreed to purchase a large amount of government land to build a steel mill, electric plant, and a port, all while providing training and jobs locally -- and a number of locals whose land is also being taken from them as part of the deal.

Meanwhile, the Economist reports on the private construction of roads and other infrastructure in India, which started out quite optimistic but is now showing signs of overly high debt and other financial distress:
Over the next five years it predicts that infrastructure investment will reach a new high relative to GDP, with some $1 trillion spent, half of it by the private sector. The trouble with this rosy prediction is that the balance-sheets of many Indian infrastructure firms are as potholed as the roads they resurface.
They argue first that firms need more equity, not more debt. Fair enough. The second argument, however, is that the government needs to untangle some of the business transactions. This is an incredibly dangerous suggestion overall. Government's job is to set the rules so that companies act in open, transparent ways, not to wade in and make business decisions. That is an open invitation to corruption and rent-seeking.

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