Financers seem to be lining up at the doorsteps of Bihar. After the Asian Development Bank a couple of days ago, an eight-member team of the World Bank called on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi and indicated their willingness to provide ‘largescale’ loans for different development projects, particularly physical and social infrastructure, in the State.
Along with the World Bank team had come Suzanne Moorhead, chief of United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DIFD). The DIFD is distinct from the two banks. It provides grants for development and not loans. "The DIFD is considering a long-term association in the poverty reduction schemes in the State."
These preliminary meetings are in the form of exploratory visits in which the finance agencies are looking at the how and where to offer loan or assistance and also assess the fund absorbing capacity of the State. Indications are that they are looking at a major exposure in Bihar over a long-term horizon.
World bank South Asia president Prafulla Patel said that the bank was willing to provide funds for boosting infrastructure development, specially roads, power and irrigation. He however added that things were at an initial stage and specialised teams would visit the State for a sector-wise study before funds could finally flow in.
The visitors during their interaction with the chief minister sought to know about the ongoing development programmes in the field of healthcare, human resources, empowerment of women and last but not the least law and order.
They appreciated the initiatives of the government after the chief minister informed them about the steps taken in the field of administrative reforms, 50 per cent reservation for women in panchayat elections and primary teachers’ appointment, the ongoing appointment of 2.35 lakh schoolteachers besides the speedy trial of criminals. The chief minister also told them that the officers now are under no other pressure (political) barring the pressure of their work.
"If we provide the funds, will the State be able to utilise it?" they asked the Deputy Chief Minister. They were satisfied with the State’s ability to absorb funds after Modi explained to them with the help of data the growth in utilisation of plan funds under the present regime.
Among the other World Bank team members were Rachid Ben Mesaud (Operations Advisor for India), Deepak Dasgupta (Lead Economist, India), Ezaz Ghani (Economic Advisor), Mandakini Kaul (State coordinator for Bihar), Meenakshi Nath (Programme Manager for Bihar) and Padma Kumar (Senior Deputy Programme Manager for Bihar).