Access to essential services

Kumar Prafull, Patna
A person is poor because her endowments of capital, land, labour and skills are meagre, and also because her access to public goods and services and natural resources is limited. Often, a poor person is trapped in the prison of illiteracy. Disease and ill-health prevent her from getting the most out of the one asset she has, her labour. Without training and skills she cannot aspire to do a better job. Without an all-weather road that connects her habitation to the nearest market, she cannot get a fair price for her produce. Without electricity and access to credit, her ability to increase productivity of land or of artisan activity is limited. Without the sewers and drains, water works and water mains that service her town; without the policing that should protect her life and limb, property (however meagre), person and dignity as an equal citizen of India; she cannot function effectively. Thus, while in the short run, access to basic facilities such as health, education, clean drinking water, etc. impacts directly on welfare, in the longer run, it determines economic opportunities for the future. Without access to these services one cannot be considered to have equality of opportunity.
Since access to these services for the majority of the population depends not only upon their income levels but upon the delivery of these services through publicly funded systems. The resources needed to create the infrastructure necessary for delivering these services to the poor are large. Fortunately, the rapid growth being targeted for the Eleventh Plan will facilitate the ability to undertake these programs, both by way of higher tax revenues resulting from higher growth and a larger borrowing capability even while adhering to fiscal deficit targets expressed as a percentage of GDP. These additional resources can be devoted to Plan expenditure aimed at ensuring effective delivery of essential services.

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