J-PAL South Asia

Evidence-Informed Policy

Despite significant economic growth and development over the last 25 years, one-third of the world’s poor still resides in India, and the country lags behind its global and Asian peers in providing a healthy and safe environment for its billion-plus citizens. Many of its challenges – whether economic or social – are influenced by poor governance. This manifests in everything from the absence of frontline civil servants responsible for delivering critical services to the design of social policies meant to improve people’s lives.

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab South Asia (J-PAL SA) collaborates with state governments in India to evaluate policies and help them adopt new, evidence-informed approaches to policymaking. That India’s 29 states share similar governance structures means a policy or program evaluated in one state could be scaled nationwide.

The Chandler Foundation is resourcing J-PAL SA to launch a Governance Unit, which will strengthen how the organization equips leaders and supports governments to adapt evidence-informed policymaking. By doing so, we look to support J-PAL SA as they work with governments to improve people’s lives and set in place mechanisms – using technology, accountability, and better execution – to strengthen governance in India.

Quote Mark

Demand-driven research can move the frontiers in the fight against poverty and inequality, and in cost-effective and measurable ways.

Shobhini Mukerji

Shobhini Mukerji

Executive Director

Machine Learning

to Reduce Tax Evasion

In 2017, India announced a nationwide Goods and Services Tax (GST), which simplified the country’s taxation system. A simpler tax system is not only easier to understand but also to follow – which, in turn, drives tax revenue. However, tax evasion continues to be a challenge under the GST system, and governments have limited resources to enforce compliance. Many tax officials have to perform their investigations manually.

Policy Solution: J-PAL South Asia is working with the Government of Punjab – which has experienced significant budget shortfalls – to build and evaluate a machine learning tool designed to identify those who are likely evading taxes. If effective, the tool could improve revenue collection by identifying tax evasion with greater accuracy and less effort.

Practical Economics

Perhaps there is no better acknowledgment of the critical role of nonprofits, researchers, and philanthropists in supporting governments through smart partnerships than the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics, which was awarded to J-PAL co-founders Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, along with long-time J-PAL affiliate Michael Kremer, for “their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.”

Read our exclusive Q&A with Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo, in the 2020 edition of Social Investor.