Lessons from expenditure and performance on cleanliness in Indian cities
In India, at present, only 75-80% of municipal waste is collected, a marginal improvement from 72% in 2010. Out of this, only about 22%-28% is processed and treated. Solid waste management (SWM) is not the only service lacking in India’s cities. In 2011, a government-appointed High Powered Expert Committee noted that “the state of urban service delivery in India’s cities and towns is far poorer than is desirable for India’s current income levels.”
Poor service delivery, despite being a multifaceted problem, is often attributed largely to lack of funding. In a new CSEP working paper, the authors examine whether lack of funding is really the primary reason holding Indian cities back from providing acceptable levels of services such as Solid Waste Management (SWM)? And, if cities that spend more on SWM have better service delivery?
The results are counter-intuitive:
Lack of funding is not a binding constraint in every city to deliver acceptable levels of SWM services. Nineteen out of 27 cities spend more than the required amount, yet none has a perfect cleanliness score. Nine out of these 19 spend at least 1.5 times more than the benchmark amount.
While funding has a significantly positive influence, it explains only 23% of the variation in performance, indicating the importance of non-monetary factors such as stable city leadership, effective public-private partnerships, and inclusive citizen engagement and awareness campaigns in driving performance.
Focus on expenditure and outcomes assumes even greater importance due to the fiscal stress caused by Covid-19, making devolution of funds to the third tier all the more challenging.
(The study has been authored by Shishir Gupta.)