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Public service delivery in Indian cities

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Urban DevelopmentGovernance

 Here is a review of a book on urban spending. It substantiates most of what we have been saying variously on Praja. The review highlights an example of how BBMP is spending 32 times lesser than the norm for streetlights. This translates into lower coverage and bad maintenance.

the authors rue that none of the cities selected in their study spends adequately on local public services in relation to the widely recommended norms for such spending.

“So with respect to these services, if cities are unable to spend, then the quality of services also stands to suffer.”

In conclusion, the authors aver that irrespective of city size, spending is the essence of the problem in a majority of the core municipal services. Funds must go into public service delivery and not into other spheres of urban development 

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idontspam's picture

Capex vs Opex

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It should also be interesting to collate Capital expenditure vs O&M spending for all the bodies which put up infrastructure in the city. General figures should be available in the budget but actuals for specific items like underpasses, roads etc will be good. Will get around to this one day. Not sure if any of you will have some figures.

Naveen's picture

Many other noteworthy items

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The article in The Hindu also quotes flwg interesting points :

In Bangalore, for instance, the per capita spending on street lights by the BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) amounts to Rs 15 (in 1999-2000 prices) taking into account capital and O&M (Operation & Maintenance) expenditure, the book informs. “The Zakaria Committee specifies a norm of Rs 482 per capita for attaining an acceptable level of street lighting in cities, while the Planning Commission specifies a norm of Rs 345.15.”

Maintenance /monitoring of public facilities is pathetic everywhere. The spends on maintaining street lights, though generally one of the better maintained utilities has been a mere Rs.15 /light, assuming stats are correct (ie. 1 light every 25mtrs on every street!).

If better monitoring is attempted, we are sure to find lazy personnel either engaged in gossip or turning a blind eye, similar to our cops. If better maintenance of utilities is attempted, it is bound to become repetitive - the same sidewalks & storm drains & roads & what-have-you will have to be redone /cleaned, etc over & over again as our people simply do not know how to keep them in good order since civic sense is abysmal. Good sidewalks will be misused by hawkers, shop-keepers & motorists, alike (for parking or driving over). Storm drains, though being cleaned almost each year, get filled up with refuse & garbage along with silt in no time! This is the reality in our country, not to mention the corruption if such spending is allowed.

Talking of roads, the book cites statistics such as that in class I cities of the country, the average intra-city travel demand is slated to increase from 759 million passenger km per day in 1994 to 2,511 million passenger km per day in 2021; and that between 1981 and 2001, the population in India’s six metros increased 1.89 times, while the number of registered vehicles went up by 7.75 times (Agarwal 2006).

“As of 2005-06, about 60 per cent of freight and 87.4 per cent passenger traffic were carried by the roads. By 2021, nearly 92 per cent of the passengers will be moved by road and rest by rail.”

This is revealing - & quite true. One wonders why the national highways program was undertaken as a priority when rail systems (urban /suburban /inter-city) were equally, if not more important.

Naveen's picture

Can we get this book for Praja ?

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Can be a good source of reference.

idontspam's picture

 One wonders why the national

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 One wonders why the national highways program was undertaken as a priority when rail systems (urban /suburban /inter-city) were equally, if not more important.

It probably was easier considering NHAI wasnt in a monopolistic situation like Rail. Now we are stuck with IR for rail and their 1000 conditions to lay new rail, let alone use their track & real estate assets.

Like I keep saying IR is probably single handedly costing us a few GDP points. Somebody needs to establish exactly how many. Here again they want O&M to be retained by them, I am not sure they will spend adequately enough to maintain quality, I quote...

In the case of labour-intensive services..., they observe a direct relationship between finances and service delivery, because services are dependent on wages to personnel to get the work done. “So with respect to these services, if cities are unable to spend, then the quality of services also stands to suffer.”

idontspam's picture

Can be a good source of

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Can be a good source of reference. 

The authors are from PAC Bangalore. Here is the book, we should go and talk to them.

I am sure we will find out the money being spent is giving us the poor quality roads. This low cost is enabled thru low grade specifications and measurements for the roads. Establishing a cost of quality figure will be an important measure to justify why the low spending isnt paying off in the long run.

silkboard's picture

Murali knows PAC folks

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Lets go get the book, buy if we have to.

idontspam's picture

Same book reviewed again,

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Same book reviewed again, little more critically this time. The following 2 issues stand out

The findings of the study, although by no means a revelation, are quite relevant. That the ULBs do not have enough money to maintain the services properly even at the existing level — let alone upgrading them to keep pace with the needs of a growing population and development imperatives — is common knowledge. The yawning gap between public expenditure and the efficiency and effectiveness of such spending is also well known.

Floating of bonds appears an easy way out. The critical issue relates to its repayment. Will the ULBs be able to do it from out of their earnings? If they cannot, the burden will shift to the government. When there is little political will to collect user chargers even at reasonable rates and there is considerable consumer resistance to such levies, one wonders how revenue surpluses are going to be generated for clearing the debt. The urban development authorities will have to acquire, develop, and sell lands and keep the money rotating so as to carry on the cyclical process. They are unlikely to be left with anything substantial by way of surplus — after meeting their own operational and administrative costs — to dole out to the ULBs.

 Think parking & tolls for the highlighted text, 20% in our poll dont want to pay for parking. Go figure!

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