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New Delhi, 10 December 2010

James Manor

Emeka Anyaoku Professor of Commonwealth Studies Submission on DFID’s Work in India.

This note contains comments on the work of the UK Department for International Development in India. (An earlier note that I sent from a dubious computer in a remote Indian town did not reach you – hence the delayed arrival of this message.) I will be happy to elaborate on these statements when I meet the Committee in January.

I have often interacted and occasionally worked with DFID in India over the last 14 years, so I know much of their work reasonably well. I have a high opinion of their efforts – as do a great many enlightened people in India – so that I can offer a strong endorsement. Despite rapid economic growth in India, vast numbers of people here remain poor, and governance issues remain important. On both fronts (which are my specialities), DFID’s contribution has been extremely valuable.

DFID has recruited a very strong staff in Delhi, mainly as the result of a shrewd policy of hiring outstanding Indian personnel. Some are taken on secondment from key government ministries, and others have splendid records in high quality civil society organisations and in academic circles. This gives DFID a more sophisticated understanding of India than other development agencies here – including (to my certain knowledge) the World Bank and most of the United Nations agencies. Those other agencies and government officials in India look to DFID for perceptive insights on constructive policy innovations – and DFID has seldom disappointed.

Its role has become especially important since a previous Indian government invited smaller international development agencies to leave some years ago. I have also worked with DFID in Bangladesh, Cambodia and four African countries, and I am convinced that its contribution here surpasses its work elsewhere. It has also developed ideas here, through productive interactions with the government and civil society, which can be applied in other developing countries.

DFID’s work on poverty reduction in India is impressive. This derives in large part from their sophisticated view of what ‘poverty’ is. They see it not just as a severe shortage of funds, incomes and assets, but also as a severe shortage of liberties, opportunities and the capacity of poor people to operate effectively in the public sphere. DFID’s personnel here are also adept at devising development initiatives which can make an impact upon both types of poverty. Their efforts are well appreciated by enlightened people in the Indian government. I have heard this directly from senior officials in the Ministry of Rural Development, the Planning Commission and the Prime Minister’s Office. It is quite remarkable that similar views have been expressed by leading figures in Indian civil society organisations, whose perspective differs from government actors.

I have often interacted with DFID specialists in Delhi on governance issues and social policy. The people who work for it in these areas have performed very admirably. They have a realistic, subtle understanding of what works well, what goes wrong, and how feasible improvements might be made – which is saying a great deal because this is often not true of most other international agencies that work in India.

Criticisms of DFID sometimes arise here on two fronts. First, DFID tends strongly to consider support only for projects which carry very large price tags. But it is difficult to blame DFID for this since it is the inevitable result of rising UK development funding and shrinking staff which has been forced upon all British government departments over the last few years. Second, some of India’s most accomplished development specialists complain that DFID is too intrusive once funds are provided for projects, and that it seeks to micro-manage too much. This latter criticism has some substance. But it is a minor quibble alongside the quite major contributions that DFID has made in India. It is very important that the DFID programme here be sustained over the years ahead.

James Manor

Emeka Anyaoku Professor of Commonwealth Studies

School of Advanced Study

University of London

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