Citizen Today

Working for a better future in Orissa

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EY leader Rohan Malik reports on an innovative program that seeks to transform the livelihoods of millions of people in the Indian state of Orissa.

Orissa, the ninth-largest state in India, sees some 47% of its 42 million population living below the poverty line.

EY began work in 2009, setting up the Orissa Modernizing Economy, Governance & Administrative (OMEGA) Program, with the sole objective of poverty elimination.

“It was clear we had to strengthen the private sector in order to create jobs and more employment opportunities.” – Rohan Malik, Partner, EY Pvt. Ltd. India

Using funding from the UK’s Department for International Development, our teams have been working alongside the Government of Orissa to address the severe poverty in the state and help build new sustainable livelihoods for its citizens.

Our first task was to identify three key focus areas for the five-year program:

1. Strengthen the private sector: To create jobs and more employment opportunities, our task was to create an industrial policy that would lead to a better investment climate and new growth sectors. Other tasks included:

  • Delivering better productivity and employment in the core sector of agriculture
  • Setting up the right enablers of infrastructure and skills

2. Modernizing government: We needed to move the Government of Orissa forward, and are strengthening the capability and capacity of the government to undertake reforms on areas of:

  • Governance
  • Administration
  • Operations, combining process, people and technology to design and deliver tailored services.

3. Focus on implementation: The program is focused on outcomes and results, such as ensuring minimum employment of 100 days for every below-poverty-line family.

We agreed that 50% of our fees should come from delivering outcomes on the ground. Every 90 days we challenge ourselves to demonstrate changes — internally to government and externally to stakeholders and beneficiaries.

We have between 20 and 25 staff on the ground at any one time, from across our global organization. All our people, whether they would be working in finance, tax, rural development or industries, have seen the potential beneficiaries so they could all see that they would be making a difference in these people’s lives.

What makes the program unique is that we have had beneficiaries as part of our advisory panel at every stage of policy-making. They tell us about the real, practical and pragmatic issues they face on a daily basis, and guide us at every step so our recommendations are based on facts.

As part of the program, we are training more than 100,000 rural youths every year, giving them new skills that will help them into employment.

We have also established sustainable business markets for key agricultural products such as onions, mangoes and others, creating livelihoods for 150,000 beneficiaries.

What we have learned in Orissa can be replicated and customized to other local contexts — especially in the emerging markets.

The teams that have been delivering OMEGA will be helping their colleagues understand and customize these approaches for different local circumstances. These ideas and activities can then be deployed to other regions and countries where such a program is needed.