Deal with the Devil: The Successes and Limitations of Bureaucratic Reform in India

64 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2014 Last revised: 21 Sep 2014

See all articles by Iqbal Dhaliwal

Iqbal Dhaliwal

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Rema Hanna

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: September 2014

Abstract

Employing a technological solution to monitor the attendance of public-sector health care workers in India resulted in a 15 percent increase in the attendance of the medical staff. Health outcomes improved, with a 16 percent increase in the delivery of infants by a doctor and a 26 percent reduction in the likelihood of infants born under 2500 grams. However, women in treatment areas substituted away from the newly monitored health centers towards delivery in the (unmonitored) larger public hospitals and private hospitals. Several explanations may help explain this shift: better triage by the more present health care staff; increased patients' perception of absenteeism in the treatment health centers; and the ability of staff in treatment areas to gain additional rents by moving women to their private practices and by siphoning off the state-sponsored entitlements that women would normally receive at the health center at the time of delivery. Despite initiating the reform on their own, there was a low demand among all levels of government-state officials, local level bureaucrats, and locally-elected bodies--to use the better quality attendance data to enforce the government's human resource policies due to a fear of generating discord among the staff. These fears were not entirely unfounded: staff at the treatment health centers expressed greater dissatisfaction at their jobs and it was also harder to hire new nurses, lab technicians and pharmacists at the treatment health centers after the intervention. Thus, this illustrates the implicit deal that governments make on non-monetary dimensions--truancy, allowance of private practices--to retain staff at rural outposts in the face of limited budgets and staff shortages.

Suggested Citation

Dhaliwal, Iqbal and Hanna, Rema, Deal with the Devil: The Successes and Limitations of Bureaucratic Reform in India (September 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w20482. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2496239

Iqbal Dhaliwal

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Rema Hanna (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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