Animal Health Policy in South Asia: What can Economic Analysis Contribute?
Vinod Ahuja ()
No WP2007-12-03, IIMA Working Papers from Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Research and Publication Department
Animal health policy in South Asia region has been characterized predominantly by direct action by the government either in providing services to livestock farmers or in undertaking livestock productivity enhancing measures. It is a widely held view among policy makers that given the poverty status of livestock farmers, the potential of livestock in contributing to poverty reduction, and poverty reduction being a public good, there is strong rationale for direct action by the government as opposed to regulatory, monitoring and market enhancing role. Accordingly, most governments in South Asia have developed large networks of publicly supported service providers backed by free or heavily subsidized input supply. A series of studies undertaken to assess the distributional outcomes of the above policy have however raised questions about the desirability of such a policy and the need to fine tune service delivery systems including creating space for other non-government service providers. These studies make a reasonably strong case for reducing the subsidies in the form of free services and putting this money into services such as disease prevention, reporting, control, awareness education and so on, for these are the services that are currently neglected due to fiscal pressures and are likely to generate a larger social good than simple treatment services. The question then is that if policy choices are so clear, why animal health policy in the region continues to encourage ‘pervasive direct action by the government’ in livestock service delivery instead of a more facilitating role. To address that question the paper shares the experience of one such attempt to understand and influence animal health policy in one of the southern states of India. Based on that experience, the paper argues that policies are an outcome of a process of complex interactions between economic logic, formal and informal power structures, legacies of trust and mistrust, and communication narratives. While significant investment is often made in clarifying the economic logic of alternative policy prescriptions and outcomes, very little thought and investment goes into managing and broad-basing policy processes. The process leading to ‘wider buy-in’ can often be far more important and needs equal, if not more, attention than economic analysis. This requires greater emphasis on socio-political studies of ‘policy processes’ and a long term strategy of investment in ‘relationship building’.
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