Vol-XCIII : February 4, 2012

Dear Colleagues

Here is another round of for your perusal;

1. In a recent pre-budget dialogue with the Finance Minister and his senior colleagues, NGOs in India made a fervent appeal to focus the budget for the welfare of the vast majority of Indians working in the informal sectors of economy. It was argued that social protection and livelihood advancement related policies and programmes for the welfare of the informal sector are critical if inclusive growth has to be pursued. In addition, the Finance Minister was asked to mandate social audits in all centrally sponsored schemes.

2. A recent symposium on tertiary education in emerging markets was held at Oxford. Deliberations in the symposium indicated that most emerging markets –China, Brasil, Russia, South Africa—had made significant investments in post-secondary education to enhance the development of human capital. India seemed to be moving in the directions of reforms most slowly. As demands for service sector employment are growing, Indian policy-makers need to find new ways of expanding the supply of multiple forms and channels of post-secondary education to meet the growing demands for good quality education in a framework of life-long learning.

3. This is the season of awards; all kinds of awards for performance in various sectors of Indian economy and society are being announced almost weekly. Each award has a section that somehow ropes in social sectors and civil society. One such recent award in best performing entities in health sector identified a private hospital in this category since it was registered as a non-profit. The strange situation is that most private hospitals and educational institutions in India are registered as non-profit trusts, not that they do not accumulate surplus. For many industries and corporates, awards are a media-savy way of gaining publicity.

4. Gender mainstreaming in corporate sector, specially in terms of representation of women in the Boards, has been a matter recently debated at Davos. Yet, a recent study of corporate Board in Europe showed that women comprise of less than 10% on most Boards; the lowest percentage is in Germany. The track record of Asian corporate Boards is not likely to be any better. Once again, the ‘glass ceiling’ syndrome is working against women reaching the very top of corporate leadership. Is the situation any different in academic and civil society organisations ?

5. Recent discourse on national policies for supporting progressive philanthropy is beginning to target the growing middle class in many Asian countries. In focusing on poverty eradication and inclusive growth, philanthropy needs to focus on making governance of basic services work for all citizens. Thus, as the Bellagio Initiative surmised, philanthropy can be like venture capital—taking risks in ways that government funding doesn’t. In so doing, philanthropy can contribute towards bringing about systemic reforms. However, the attitudes of the philanthropists may still be ‘charity’ oriented; and, taxation authorities may favour ‘old-style’ charity over modern efforts at governance reforms. So, will the new middle-class go the same way as their predecessors? ?

All the very best

Rajesh Tandon