Serve the Essentials

What Governments and Donors must do to improve South Asia's Essential Services

Published: 23 October 2006

This report presents an insightful assessment of essential services in South Asia, with special focus on health and education. In this as in many other fields of social enquiry, the comparative perspective is of great value, and the report makes excellent use of this perspective by scrutinizing regional contrasts in South Asia – between as well as within countries. Somehow, this comparative South Asian perspective has been overlooked in development studies.

One of the central insights of development economics is the importance of human capabilities, both as an end and as a means of development. At early stages of development, capabilities related to nutrition, health and elementary education are of special importance. For instance, literacy and education (especially female education) make wide-ranging contributions not only to economic growth but also to demographic change, social equality, political democracy, and many other aspects of development. Similarly, good health is a fundamental basis of the quality of life as well as of social progress.