The World Bank’s Development Marketplace grants programme selects social enterprises delivering development solutions across different geographies for funding in India each year. This year’s winners will be announced later this week in Guwahati. Country director Onno Ruhl discussed the programme, and the World Bank’s engagement with the new government, with Yamini Lohia. Excerpts:
Do you expect the World Bank’s engagement with the government, now that a new dispensation is in power, to change at all?
We have a strategy that coincides with the mandate to the new government, which is to concentrate on the World Bank’s global goals — poverty and shared prosperity — which in India translates to inclusive growth. We’ve looked at the manifesto of the party in power and frankly, you don’t see a different focus in terms of the overall goal. So that’s an important starting point of awareness. Second, with a strong mandate, one can expect a government to want to do business and we’ve tried to find the financing to meet India’s aspiration. What for the World Bank might be a high level of lending, for India is probably small but still significant — this current fiscal year, our lending to India will be in the ballpark of $5.2 billion. You have a new government, and a strategy that is uncontroversial, and also the new government will be keen to show that it is delivering. We are happy to help with that. There is no controversy there and we are far past the ideological discussions between Washington and New Delhi.
The India-specific Development Marketplace (DM) is a relatively new initiative. Why fund social enterprises?
At some point we realised that innovation shouldn’t have to come from inside the World Bank, that there were tremendous possibilities to innovate by simply reaching out. In the beginning, it was more linked to our projects, activities and portfolio. But we realised that even that is an artificial constraint to innovation. India has always been an important user and beneficiary of the development marketplace because it is seen as a source of innovation on so many things. We have increasingly targeted the development marketplace to match our strategy for India and globally.
If you look at what we try to do when we work with government, which is our mandate, then it’s actually difficult. We finance large projects like railroads, etc, which are not conceptually difficult. But in many areas, particularly social sectors like healthcare and education but also livelihoods, here we are sitting in Delhi, working with governments, often in Delhi (sometimes state governments), and we’re thinking about how to get education to backward caste girls in eastern UP, and the easiest way to describe it is if you think continued…