'Social programmes need evaluations'

The world spends more than $330 bn each year on programmes to improve health, education & other social sectors.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2006 15:16 IST

The world spends more than $330 billion each year on different programmes to improve health, education and other social sectors, but very few get evaluated for their impact on people's lives.

This was highlighted in a consultation workshop on 'Impact Evaluation of Social Development Programmes', jointly organised by National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and Centre for Global Development (CGD) in New Delhi.

"There are many opportunities to learn what works in social development programmes that are often missed," NCAER said giving details of the workshop last week.

Citing examples from India that it spent $1.3 billion on primary education as part of DPEP programme, the NCAER rued that a comprehensive and systematic assessment of the impact of the programme on educational attainment was not available.

To deal with the situation, CGD has proposed setting up an independent international facility to provide flexible funding for evaluation opportunities.

Besides, it also favoured building collaboration among countries and agencies for sharing some of the experience in social international development and to share impact evaluation methods and findings.

NCAER is of the view that an "evaluation gap" has emerged because governments, official donors and other funders do not demand or produce impact evaluations.

Moreover, the evaluations which were conducted are mostly of poor quality, it added.

"This evaluation gaps leads to a waste of money and allows many decisions about social sector spending to be made on political grounds," it said.

NCAER said this gap occured because the incentives to conduct good impact evaluations were few, and the process involved many hurdles.

Elaborating, it said, those in charge of social programmes in developing countries might be unwilling to face the risk of proving their programme 'failed'.

Besides, those involved in international assistance might fear that a few negative studies could undermine domestic support for foreign aid more broadly, it added.

However, NCAER found tolerance for the evaluation was waning and governments of developing countries were demanding better information on the efficacy of social spending.

"The current climate of open access to information, and the move towards more evidence-based policy making, are leading to greater demands for accountability and transparency," it said.

NCAER felt there was a need to separate the two functions of implementation and evaluation for a proper impact evaluation to take place.

In the Indian context, it said though the process of five year planning for the development programmes did include a monitoring and evaluation framework, the need for independent evaluation of these programmes had not been fully met.

First Published: Apr 14, 2006 11:19 IST