Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Bherai Babai tunnel breakthrough, cash transfer or public investment and effect of home assigned civil servants

From The Kathmandu Post: The Rs33.18 billion Bheri Babai Diversion Multipurpose Project in Surkhet has crossed a major milestone with the completion of a tunnelled connection, allowing diversion of water from Bheri River to Babai River for irrigation and power generation. Four years after the national pride project was inaugurated by the late Sushil Koirala in April 2015, the Bheri Babai project marked the tunnel breakthrough one year before the original deadline--thanks to a number of factors, including the use of technology, topography and well-coordinated efforts.
In a first, the 12-km tunnel was dug using a tunnel boring machine built and installed by a US-based manufacturer. The civil contractor for the project is China Overseas Engineering Group. Oli described the project as a great example of global partnership in development, saying the achievement was a result of the synergy between a Chinese construction company, American technology and Nepali manpower. With this, the major Rs10.57 billion tunnel component of one of the major strategic projects of the country, which is expected to ease the food crisis in the mid-western region by increasing agricultural yield, has been completed. The second component--hydroelectricity and other structures worth Rs12.10 billion--is expected to begin a few months from now.
The tunnel with a capacity to divert 40 cubic metres of water per second will be used to irrigate 51,000 hectares of land throughout the year in Banke and Bardia districts and generate 46 megawatt electricity. Although the government had invited bids in July 2012, lack of resources and delay in contractor appointment had pushed the project inauguration to April 2015. “Technology definitely played a crucial role, but that aside, the contract was not divided into many portions and contractors were selected accordingly,” said Upadhyay. “More importantly, the project was free from bureaucratic hassles and issues that cropped up at the construction site were resolved then and there.”

>>This multipurpose project, the first-of-its-kind inter-basin water transfer project in Nepal, has the potential to irrigate 51,000 hectares of land year-round in Banke and Bardiya districts when it comes in full operation. This will boost agricultural productivity and income of people in the two districts as well in adjoining districts (positive spillovers). Furthermore, 46 MW hydroelectricity from the project itself will be a boon to Province 5 and Karnali (water comes from Bheri Ganga Municipality of Surkhet District, Karnali Province).

That said, we don't yet know when the projects will come into operation. The procurement to construct a dam to divert water to the tunnel is yet to be done. Similar is the case with construction of power house. It might take another five years. 

Cash transfer vs. public services

Khemani et al. write in Future Development blog: In a survey conducted in rural Bihar over November-December 2018, they asked people if they preferred cash transfers if the budget would come from expenses earmarked for other kinds of spending.
Two different trade-offs with targeted cash transfers were presented in the allocation of (a hypothetical) additional budget for the block, a key local administrative unit in India. Respondents were told that since the (hypothetical) additional budget would be limited, the cash would come at the expense of either public health and nutrition services for children in their block or improving the quality of roads.
Of the approximately 3,800 respondents, only 13 percent chose cash if it came at the expense of spending to improve public health and nutrition (preferred by 86 percent of respondents). In contrast, if the cash came at the expense of improving roads throughout the block, the number rises to 35 percent of respondents choosing cash. These percentages are the same when we restrict the sample to respondents with little or no education, or to those who belong to historically disadvantaged caste groups. That is, the poor and less educated are overwhelmingly choosing public health over cash.
Meanwhile, David Evans writes in CGD blog
Listen to the voices of citizens. But before throwing the cash transfer baby out with the bathwater, let’s make sure those citizens have clear information about their trade-offs.

Should civil servants be allowed to serve in their home areas?

Xu et al. write in VoxDev: that assigning civil servants to their home areas may limit their ability to provide effective public services. Social proximity adversely affects bureaucrat’s performance through political favoritism. 
Our main finding is that officers allocated to their home state perform worse than comparable officers who are allocated to non-home states. On average looking across the entire nation, we find that officers allocated to their home states are deemed to be more corrupt and less able to withstand illegitimate political pressure. The extent to which home allocations worsen performance, however, varies substantially across states. Home-state officers perform worse in states that score higher on corruption as measured by the Transparency International score. Consistent with this subjective evidence we find that, in the more corrupt Indian states, home-allocated officers are more likely to be suspended primarily due to having court cases pending against them. 
We provide corroborating evidence that home officers, especially more senior ones, are more susceptible to capture by the political elite by investigating differential patterns of political interference in the careers of IAS officers based on their proximity to chief ministers, the political heads of Indian states.