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By Tani Alex
The World Development Report (WDR) is the World Bank’s development research and policy review report published annually. Started by IBRD since 1978, this report is intended to provide deep and extensive analysis on one particular aspect of economic development, every year. The solutions and policy messages brought out in this report is widely scrutinised by researchers, policy makers, governments and civil society since this ‘flagship’ report is supposedly the Bank’s highly prized research contribution to the development world. Heavy research budgets, far-reaching dissemination and the legitimacy of ‘World Bank’ publication make this a cherished one for the Bank. Few of the previous years’ reports focused on education, health, environment, risk management, poverty, the role of the state, youth, agriculture, equity and public services delivery.
Quick Glimpse into the development of WDR 2019
The World Development Report 2019: Changing Nature of Work (WDR 2019) examines the changing nature of work and firms, laying emphasis on the impact of technology and digital innovation on the current global economy.
But what made this report a highly talked about one in the recent debates on development? The Bank’s previous president Jim Yong Kim writes in his foreword that this document shows the transparency of work since it was open to all for modification of drafts, almost every week online. And then, there were more than a million downloads even before halfway its publication which also made it the most downloaded report in 2018. Another occasion to note is that its preparatory phase was delayed by the Bank’s then chief economist Paul Romer’s resignation[he was the first director of WDR 2019], over his controversial remarks on the direct correlation between the political leanings of the staff and annual rankings of countries in Ease of Doing Business process of the Bank. Subsequently, the work was taken over by Simeon Djankov, who is the Founding Director of the much sought-after, yet much criticised, Doing Business Reports. Yet another highlight of this report was the introduction of Human Capital Index [The human capital project examined in WDR 2019 will be explained in another section of this article], again contested, where countries will be now ranked annually in terms of a child attaining optimum productivity after having attained education and full health from birth till 18 years of age.
Paradoxical Messages of WDR 2019
But above all, this report faces strong criticism for its two pertinent direct messages – deregulation of businesses and shifting obligations of firms/employers for social protection of workers/employees to the shoulders of the State. Few voices have come out globally carefully analysing the nuances of various explanations given by the Bank to establish the context for its suggestions for the future of work for the evolving economy.
It is true that the report has failed to give a rounded, well-thought critique on the actual challenges faced by workers in the accelerated transformation of the world of work. To put it short, critically speaking, this report is inherently characterised on anti-worker perspective. The deregulatory solution brought out in this report parrots almost all the editions of Doing Business Reports since 2003 promoting private sector development and having influenced watering down of many regulatory policies across countries to facilitate rapid entry and development of the business.
This was eagerly executed by governments because labour regulations policies allegedly stifled exciting investments and swift economic growth. It is ironical that the same Bank, in its WDR 2013: Jobs, after extensive review on the link between labour regulation and employment [following a massive hue and cry from few governments, labour movements and ILO], had stated that this ‘link’ was non-existent. This obviously shows WDR 2019 disproves the exhaustive findings of WDR 2013!
Moreover, the Bank, during its previous Annual Meetings at Bali during October 2018 had introduced its new Environmental and Social Framework, where respect for workers’ rights in Bank’s projects was entered as Labour Safeguards [ESS2– Labour and Working Conditions]. Not less than two weeks later after the much appreciation for Bank’s new safeguard policy, came WDR 2019 in direct and stark contrasting opinions. This is highly contradictory and problematic from the Bank’s side sending two conflicting messages in two separate yet distinguished policy publications.
Story Line of WDR 2019The world of work is progressing rapidly with technological and digital innovations including robots and Artificial Intelligence. Stable jobs are giving way to Gig- jobs and digital market places paved the way for platform market places and superstar firms. “Innovation will continue to accelerate” and there are growing chances, as already seen in many countries, that automation would replace the low-skilled redundant labour. Hence the jobs remaining outside automation would require highly skilled work-force that would have exceptional cognitive skills [logic, reasoning, critical thinking], socio-behavioural skills [teamwork, resilience, confidence, leadership] and skills of predictive adaptability [‘an individual now can have not many jobs but different careers in one lifetime’].
In order to feed into this need for a productive workforce, education and health must be critical for every child [starting from birth, especially until 5 years of age] and adult [adult learning outside the school and tertiary education. Therefore, the bank’s new Human Capital Project and Human Capital Index examines closely at this aspect of development and will recommend policy actions through country strategies. And what about those who fail to fall in the ‘formal’ and productive workforce, namely the informal workers? Well, they will be given social assistance [various forms of UBI, negative tax], social insurance and State will protect them with basic minimum, and if possible reskilling and upskilling initiatives would be undertaken].
All said, the gap of finances which then the State is faced with can be covered by mobilizing tax revenue – by imposing VAT, excise tax on tobacco, alcohol, sugar, etc. and by expanding the tax coverage base, along with further strengthening of global efforts of OECD and G-20 to agree together on preventing tax erosion and profit-shifting through tax havens.
And thereafter, to accommodate all these policy changes, there should be political incentives for governments through new social contracts for the State to protect all, whether they are formal or informal workers, whether they are employed or unemployed and wherein the returns to work for the State is also guaranteed.
It finally follows that the goal of social inclusion is achieved thus. Well, aren’t we all made happy … and all looks rosy!
A Few Disquieting Specifics from WDR 2019
Apart from the disguising semantics of WDR 2019’s storyline, here is a list of important suggested possibilities of what might not be well with a large number of us globally, if its recommended policy actions are adopted by governments:
- Minimum wages, which ensured fair returns to workers against exploitation of employers, shall be reduced – employers are free to reduce the wages to the bare minimum.
- You and I can be fired from work at will. Because we pose structural rigidity to firms.
- Employers will be made free from providing workers’ protection rights (imagine how this would read for those who work in occupationally hazardous environments especially and already for those working as independent contractors and gig-workers who juggle multiple careers who do not fall under the regular labour category)
- Already data is given in the report of advanced economies enjoying the productivity of robots, while the employment growth has been steady and has not been affected. But how can these be ideated with that of situations in poor and low-middle income countries?
- Workers are expensive if labour rights and protection are implemented in every firm, hence do away with labour regulations! [Shake hands with the similar recommendations of Doing Business Reports!]
- The present Bismarckian model of social security scheme based on workers’ and employers’ voluntary contribution will be changed since they do not include the informal workers who are 2/3rdof developing country population.
- The informality of works worldwide poses a huge problem of workers not being able to be adapted to the past faced requirements of the transforming economy. Majority of us will be jobless unless we keep on learning if we are adults. No mention of senior citizens in the report.
- Digital marketplaces, to read accurately, ‘intangible marketplaces’ get away with not having to pay taxes and profit-shifting. So, let the governments finance their basic social welfare schemes and assistance by expanding the tax base and increasing regressive VAT. Imagine how a poor or developing nation would suffer from the burden of it – the ordinary man’s wages go into his daily sustenance and will not have savings, and then he needs to pay VAT over what he consumes for his survival!
- Various forms of Universal Basic Income [UBI] are recommended.
- Rich will get richer, poor will be increasingly poorer (seems the Gini coefficient hasn’t moved altogether for some time)
Other General Global Concerns with WDR 2019
The following broad critique has been collated and arranged from all the sources given in this article, hyperlinked at various instances.
- Lack of significant research data
- Selective data and evidence presentation
- Casual handling of the subject with sweeping generalizations
- Central assertions of the document [except maybe a little in the Building Human Capital and Lifelong learning] are devoid of solid and reliable data and genuine analysis.
- The Bank has perhaps allowed right-wing ideologies to trickle down into their research reports.
- While stressing the need to acknowledge the rise of platform markets and independent contractors, legal protection and safeguards for the emerging distinct labour force [who have also met serious resistance while campaigning for their rights like Uber Drivers] have not been addressed.
- Pro-business and superstar firms agenda
- Growing inequality of economies inadequately discussed
- “Disregarding history, blinkered to indigenous protests, pretending there’s a peaceful pathway to all things good”
Longstanding observers of WDR over many years has recognised the emerging pattern of the Bank to move away from their adopting best practices to better learning by doing exercises. And that the Bank has been engaging in wider politics for better acceptance of their policy recommendations, including the “elite interests and ideologies; addressing collective action problems; building support for reform…legitimising a wider consensus”, for “pro-poor experimentation.”
The report has not just suggested eliminating the responsibility of social protection from the private sector and superstar firms, but altogether failed to address and recall the need of commitment from advanced nations to contribute in global development, by limiting the scope of the report to just low and middle-income economy experiments and discussions.
Much disappointing and worse is the fact that, here, human beings are pitted as human capital only, to be tailor-made for ‘productivity’. In the impatient race for economic growth and capital, the creativity of humanity, the plight of less privileged and marginalised, the ever-present resistances of people’s groups and movements, declining natural resources and accommodating other living beings, much less…the essence of life and living itself is non-existent in this ‘development’ report.
एशियन इंफ़्रास्ट्रक्चर इन्वेस्टमेंट बैंक और भारत का नेशनल इन्वेस्टमेंट एंड इंफ़्रास्ट्रक्चर फ़ंड के निवेश संकट की और एक इशारा
MASS welcomes the US Supreme Court’s Decision to Hear the Case Challenging World Bank Group Immunity
For immediate release
For more information:
November 27, 2017
Letter to the WB on Amaravati Case of Inspection Panel
The Executive Directors,
The World Bank
Dear Executive Directors,
We, the representatives of people’s movements, civil society organisations, and concerned citizens, write to the Board of World Bank Group to draw your urgent attention to a few critical matters surrounding the Bank’s proposed Project PI59808: India- Proposed Amaravati Sustainable Capital City Development Project. We are aware that complaints and requests for inspection were sent to the Inspection Panel during December 2016 and May 2017, and registration of the complaint was notified to the public (IPN-Request No. RQ 17/04).
Developments following the Inspection Panel’s visit
We are perturbed with the couple of recent developments, which took place after the Panel’s visit to India mid-September this year, following the registration of the complaint filed by farmers from Andhra Pradesh. This project has garnered much attention in the country owing to the massive land acquisition and ‘voluntary land pooling’ scheme [LPS]. The farmers allege harm to their livelihoods, environment, and food security, along with lack of consultation and participation of affected people. The Inspection Panel visited Amaravati during 13-15 September 2017 and has heard various representations from the project-affected villages. Soon after, in the first week of October, the Bank’s website published the Inspection Panel’s report — which was taken down within few days — with recommendations for investigation into the grievances of the complainants against forced land pooling, coercion and intimidation, lack of sufficient public consultations, grave threat to food security and loss of fertile floodplains to establish Amaravati. It is established from the copy of the report that the Panel has in fact concluded that there are indeed “issues of potential harm and policy non-compliance.” We note that it has further observed that the people “raised issues of a serious character that can only be fully ascertained in the context of an investigation.” It also recommends “carrying out an investigation,” which “will primarily focus on the resettlement aspects of the Bank’s proposed project, as well as environmental concerns, and issues related to consultation, participation and disclosure of information as they pertain to the Bank’s financing, policies and procedures.”
The Bank, while pulling down this report, issued a press statement saying that the Panel’s report was inadvertently published before being reviewed by the Bank’s Board of Executive Directors. All the affected groups, the communities, supportive CSOs and media are now watching Board’s decision closely, which will decide on the further investigation into Bank’s non-compliance with its operating policies [OP/BP 4.01 – Environmental Assessment, OP/BP 4.04 – Natural Habitats, OP/BP 4.11 – Physical Cultural Resources, OP/BP 4.12 – Involuntary Resettlement, OP/BP 4.36 – Forests].
Undermining of Panel’s mandate
While you are now considering revising the directives of your accountability mechanism by next year, we keenly call forth to bolster the mandate of the Panel and not to weaken it. Earlier this year, there were calls by the CSOs for greater ‘independence’ and ‘legitimacy’ of the Panel by including external stakeholders in its Panel, which could be from the academia or CSOs. Not to deviate from the point of attention here, there are regular calls about strengthening your accountability, but your actions seem to weaken your mandate by limiting the role of your complaint handling mechanisms. This, in turn, reflects your undermining of the systems and responsibilities you uphold. Especially, now that the international climate has been manipulatively made conducive for development banks and lenders to thrust funds in the guise of mega infrastructure financing, it is likely that you would witness a large number of objections as well since it involves significant displacement of people, loss of natural resources and livelihoods. Disregard of national and state laws, violation of environmental and social safeguards and hiding of critical information to affected communities continue unchecked.
There are strong reasons to suspect that the Government of India might weigh in on the Board to dissuade it from permitting an investigation into the case. We want to confirm that that view is not shared by a large number of us, and the Government is going ahead against the wishes of the people.
The independence of the Inspection Panel and the commitment of the Board on following its procedures will be strongly tested once the Panel’s report is published on the Bank website again.
Intimidation of the State
Though the Government of Andhra Pradesh [GoAP] presented Land Pooling Scheme as voluntary, many farmers were intimidated and economically manipulated into pooling their lands. The strategies for the same included setting short deadlines for participation in the LPS, which were subsequently and repeatedly extended; threats to acquire the land under the regulations of the Land Acquisition Act of 2013, which would provide compensation far below the actual market value of the farmers’ land and threats to provide the ten-year annuity only to those farmers who signed up for the LPS prior to May 1, 2015.
Farmers who expressed opposition to the LPS were also intimidated and harassed. There were instances of burning of farms and plantations in the State. Further, there has been a heavy police presence in the Amaravati area since land pooling began, and police have interrogated, detained, harassed, assaulted, and intimidated residents. The Chief Minister of the State, who publicly challenged to take legal action against the people working against the capital city, has set a dangerous precedent to the effectiveness of accountability mechanisms of development banks. The intimidating atmosphere around any public workshop or meeting held by those who are not in favour of the capital city project is very clearly established in the IP report and as was evident during their visit to Amaravati as well.
We are astonished that the Bank has not made a public statement against this outright intimidation for seeking redressal from its accountability mechanism. Apart from a direct threat to the current complainants, it is also a warning to all future complainants that they will have to face the wrath of the state for approaching the Bank and its mechanisms. The silence the Bank continues to maintain on this is perceived to be a tactical one to appease the Indian government.
Precautionary Orders of NGT Judgment
In its recent (17th November 2017) decision, the Principal Bench of National Green Tribunal (in Pandaleneni Srimannarayana, EAS Sarma and others, vs. State of Andhra Pradesh and Ors.) has categorically held that the proposed Capital’s environmental and social impacts have been insufficiently reviewed and addressed when the controversial environmental clearance was accorded to it. As a consequence, the Tribunal thought it fit to appoint a special Supervisory Committee to review all conditions of the environmental clearance accorded by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, and also to subject the project to further review from a perspective of assessing risks, including those posed by climate change events. It is clear from this verdict that even the most basic assessments relating to the short-term and long-term environmental and social impacts of the project have not been assessed per law and applicable norms by the Andhra Pradesh Government.
All things considered, no project can be supported or financed if it is not in conformance with the Constitution of India. It is an undeniable fact that the Amaravati Capital proposal has not yet been reviewed and approved by the District Planning Committee [DPC] as is mandated per Article 243ZD of the Constitution of India, which requires such a project as the Capital Amaravati can only be promoted, provided it has been approved by the DPC having prepared a District Development Plan having regard to:
“(i) matters of common interest between the Panchayats and the Municipalities including spatial planning, sharing of water and other physical and natural resources, the integrated development of infrastructure and environmental conservation;
(ii) the extent and type of available resources whether financial or otherwise;
(b) consult such institutions and organisations as the Governor may, by order, specify.
(4) The Chairperson of every District Planning Committee shall forward the development plan, as recommended by such Committee, to the Government of the State.”
In the instant case, without Amravati having secured mandatory approval of DPC, it follows that extending any form of loan and assistance to the proposal will amount to the World Bank supporting, financing and participating in an unconstitutional project.
Our Demands against the Impositions of the WB as a co-financier in Amaravati Capital City Development Project
- We strongly hold the World Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a co-financier of the project, accountable for the already existing and impending crucial consequences of this mammoth capital city project with its flawed project design, based on its own environmental and social safeguards.
- Despite repeated communication and appeals, the GoAP has already proceeded with construction activities and laying out infrastructure in an accelerated mechanism, involving sub-projects and components, which highly falls in the purview of the Bank’s scope – its Urban Pro-Poor Infrastructure goal for the project. This is a very disturbing trend of the WB for proceeding with support for the government without paying heed to the resistances of the project affected communities and circumventing their concerns against the project. Also, as understood from the World Bank’s statement, it has executed a trust fund of $ 0.17 million for financing the preparatory works of the project.
- We do not hesitate to direct our charges against the WB on lending to the catastrophic project where we are witnessing now the forced Land Pooling Scheme to amass vast parcels of land for development across one of the richest fertile food belts of India [Please note that GoAP has proposed to acquire around 56,000 acres of which around 35,000 are already pooled in, including almost 100 hectares of Forest Land].
- We demand that WB revoke its support from the project, which would surely pave the way for the disruption of the natural state of a sensitive ecosystem including remodelling reserve forests by felling trees and building bio/industrial/techno/sports parks, along with your negligence towards our foresight of frequent floods triggered to an acute degree. We challenge that the Chief Minister of AP himself is flouting NGT orders on zero constructions on the river embankments, by renovating his residence on the banks adjacent to River Krishna.
- Displacement and ‘resettling’ of around 20,000 families in the guise of returning ‘developed’ residential and commercial lands in the absence of a guarantee and struggling in the tentacle grip of realtors, middlemen, goondas of the real estate sector are serious concerns raised.WB presenting a plan on involuntary resettlement against these issues without public consultations or consent is vehemently questionable.
- We strongly reiterate that the creation of Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority Act (APRCDA Act 2014) was against the country’s Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 along with the tweaked amendments. We are aware that, as and when project components materialise, existing laws are amended at the State, or there is a complete irreverence to the nation-specific policies. We fiercely question this disregard of WB for our policies and laws, which were strenuously formulated by our national leaders during our times of national and regional struggles.
- The lack of an adequate and comprehensive Resettlement Policy Plan and the incompetent addressing of the Bank against the uprooting of impoverished Dalit families from 600-year-old occupied islands and not having guaranteed them return lands will lead directly to the creation of a wide marginalised community of informal sector on the outskirts of the capital city with no regard for their dignity, efforts and labour. Also, depriving village commons of the communities dependent on them is highly regrettable.
- We want to draw the attention of WB to the contemptuous promises made by the Government to upgrade skills of project affected people of which farmers are the majority, by wrenching their agricultural lands from them and introducing new ‘industrial and technological’ skills. The statistics of increase in land value, population and employment rates are highly speculated, and studies based on other references on recent capital cities of India affirm our case. We are resolute when we ask WB to reconsider stop investing in this project based on highly inflated statistics that are borrowed from the development models of foreign countries (Japan, Dubai, Singapore).
- We do not wish to sell our land to foreign players with diversified investments, MoUs and interests, in the name of ‘development’. GoAP, who should have been supporting the citizens who elected them, refrain from giving attention to our calls. We assert that we will continue exhorting WB for proceeding with this ill-conceived project, against the greater interests of the people in Amaravati.
We unwaveringly stress that the civil society of India is wary about how you will take a decision based on the recommendations of the Panel. We look forward to your immediate attention to our requirements and for your sound judgment on Amaravati case.
- Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan
- EAS Sarma, Forum for Better Visakha and Former Secretary, Ministry of Power, Government of India
- Prafulla Samanthra, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Odisha
- Gautam Mody, New Trade Union Initiative
- Peter, National Fishworkers Forum
- Madhuresh Kumar, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Delhi
- Afsar Jafri, Focus on Global South
- Sreedhar Ramamurthi, Environics Trust, New Delhi
- Ravi Rebbapragda, Samata Assertion for People
- Ashok Shrimali, Mines, Minerals & People
- Souparna Lahiri, All India Forum of Forest Movements (AIFFM)
- Xavier Dias, Editor, Khan Kaneej Aur ADHIKAR, (Mines Minerals & RIGHTS)
- Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune
- Himanshu Upadhyaya, Public Finance Public Accountability Collective, Bangalore
- Tani Alex, Centre for Financial Accountability, New Delhi
- Soumya Dutta, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha
- Beyond Copenhagen Collective
- Willy, Indian Social Action Forum – INSAF, New Delhi
- Kalyani Menon-Sen, Independent Researcher and Activist
- Leo Saldanha, Environmental Support Group, Bangalore
- Ram Wangkheirakpam, Indigenous Perspectives, Manipur
- Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, Delhi
- Babu Rao, Retired Scientist, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) and Independent Environmental Expert
- Usha Seethalakshmi, Independent Researcher, Mahila Kisan Manch (MAKAAM), Forum For Women Farmers’ Rights
- Meera Sanghamitra, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Andhra Pradesh/Telangana State
- Kiran Kumar Vissa, Rythu Swarajya Vedika (Forum For Farmers’ Sovereignty)
- Ramakrishnam Raju, United Forum for Right to Information and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Andhra Pradesh/Telangana State
- Deepala Suresh, Lawyer and Independent Researcher
- Gutta Rohit, Human Rights Forum (HRF), Andhra Pradesh/Telangana State
- Ravi Kumar, Independent Lawyer (representative of the Amaravati project-affected before various judicial fora)
- Rajesh Serupally, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Andhra Pradesh/Telangana State
- Jeevan Kumar, Human Rights Forum (HRF), Andhra Pradesh/Telangana State
- Bharat Patel, Machimar Adhikaar Sangharsh Sangathan
- Awadhesh Kumar, Srijan Lokhit Samiti, Madhya Pradesh
- Rajendra Ravi, Institute for Democracy and Sustainability
- Bilal Khan, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Abhiyaan
- Manshi Asher, Himdhara – Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh
- Aashima Subberwal, The Research Collective, New Delhi
- Rajesh Singh, Delhi Solidarity Group
- Himanshu Damle, Public Finance Public Accountability Collective, New Delhi
- Vimalbhai, Mattu Jan Sangathan, Uttrakhand
- Rajkumar Sinha, Chutka Paramanu Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, Madhya Pradesh
- Maglin Philomin, Teeradesa Mahila Vedi, Kerala
- Amulya Nidhi, Nai Shuruwat, Madhya Pradesh
- Kannan, PSI India
- Ravindranath, River Basin Friends