A quick study of the recent flurry of promotional campaigns by the central and various state governments & their ministries, to showcase their past year achievements, is instructive. The ministers (& bureaucrats) take pride in showcasing large budget outlays & efforts, while spending little time to highlight or discuss achieved outcomes.
Their intentions may be devious, or perhaps they are just (conveniently or blindly) following tradition.
Outcomes matter more than budgets & efforts, but populist welfare schemes and propaganda often divert the attention of the public.
Consider the recent colorful advertisement by Karnataka’s Department of Water Resources on its 3-year achievements. Among other things, I would expect the CM, Minister & the department to report on how they have fared in providing drinking water and irrigation. I also would like to know the government’s long-term plans for water security & sustainability, and progress.
But what does the advertisement talk about?
The headline claims ‘Promises kept, Milestones crossed, New goals set’. We are then reminded the promises were to spend thousands of crores on various irrigation projects. A long list of various ongoing, completed and new projects follow, with details on the many thousands & hundreds of crores spent, efforts taken, etc.
While the mention of humongous expenditure may sound awesome and the exhaustive list of projects & efforts may sound herculean, they matter only when outcomes are discussed frankly and transparently.
How many more homes in Karnataka have got reliable drinking water supply in the past 3 years? How many more farmers have access to reliable irrigation in the past 3 years? What criteria is being used to measure these? What are the global benchmarks? Are the people & farmers satisfied? How & when will the state achieve water security?
Such questions need to be answered by ministers & bureaucrats. And we, as citizens & voters, need to ask more such questions.
Big budgets & efforts matter, but outcomes matter more.