Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

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Missing Pieces: Uncertain India, Aid Transparency, and More

by Isobel Coleman
October 5, 2012

Rickshaw pullers wait for customers outside the Sahara Mall, a shopping center built by Sahara group, in Gurgaon on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, September 20, 2012 (Mansi Thapliyal/Courtesy Reuters).


In this installment of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights news and analysis on India, Georgia, foreign assistance, and Asia’s economic growth. Enjoy!
  • Uncertain India: India, long seen as a vibrant democracy headed for prosperity, has lately become known for sagging growth and political paralysis. An Economist special report surveys the scene. Though global weakness has harmed India’s economy, it says, “the greatest pains are self-inflicted.” Troubles include a large deficit, an unfriendly investment climate, high inflation, and inadequate infrastructure. Both elected politicians and bureaucrats stymie needed reforms and efficiencies. Literacy has risen from 52 to 74 percent since 1991, and “some 97 percent of school-age children enroll.” India also has the world’s largest number of higher education institutions (26,500). However, the quality of instruction ranges from “variable” to “often wretched,” producing a shortage of skilled professionals. Meanwhile, government welfare spending to combat poverty is up, but many view it as inefficient and prone to corruption. Still, the report foresees a brighter future for India—“eventually.”
  • Aid Transparency: Publish What You Fund released the second edition of its Aid Transparency Index. It grades major donor organizations on forty-three indicators related to the information they disclose about their activities. Eleven indicators grade transparency in each agency overall; the rest look at activities in its “biggest recipient country.” Two organizations rank far above the others: the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) and the World Bank (specifically the International Development Association and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development). Rounding out the top five are the Netherlands; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation. The most transparent American donor agency, according to the index, is the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which ranks ninth. USAID comes next at twenty-seven, with other U.S. agencies trailing behind. All, however, have improved since last year’s index.
  • Asia’s Growth: In an update to its annual Asian Development Outlook, the Asian Development Bank paints a cloudy picture. “Developing Asia” should see GDP growth of 6.1 percent this year and 6.7 percent in 2013, “down significantly” from last year’s 7.2 percent. Unsurprisingly, China and India have both slowed “as external and internal factors combined to weaken their growth prospects.” Growth in China is estimated at 7.7 percent this year and 8.1 percent in 2013, down from 9.3 percent last year. After an expansion of 6.5 percent last year, India is set to grow just 5.6 percent in 2012. It should rebound to 6.7 percent next year, though. Elsewhere, slack demand for exports is dimming growth prospects in East and Southeast Asia; the bank has reduced its forecasts for Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. One silver lining of the slowdown is moderate inflation. The report also notes that “most economies in the region have ample room” for stimulus if needed.
  • Georgia’s Vote: Despite considerable uncertainty before the vote, parliamentary elections on Monday in Georgia seemed to go well. International monitors cited several concerns but called the poll “competitive” and “an important step in consolidating the conduct of democratic elections.” The White House released a statement of congratulations. And though many feared vote-rigging, President Mikheil Saakashvili swiftly conceded his party’s loss to the Georgian Dream coalition led by Bidzina Ivanishvili. But the aftermath has been bumpy. Ivanishvili called for Saakashvili, whose presidential term expires next year, to resign now, then withdrew the demand. Georgia Dream supporters also took to the streets, claiming fraud in parliamentary races won by Saakashvili’s party. According to an Atlantic piece, Ivanishvili, set to become prime minister, faces two daunting challenges: forming a government from his fractious coalition and working with Saakashvili and his still-popular party. In a blog post, CFR’s Anya Schmemann notes these concerns but highlights the upside, writing that a democratic transition is “remarkable and hopeful” given Georgia’s own history and the continuing repression throughout the region.

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