What Scheme Would you Like? Let’s Ask the Poor

Yesterday evening I attended a SPARK session (symposium like talks on various topics pertaining to development economics held frequently at IFMR) on the MGNREGA. While the speaker went through the history of the various similar schemes the government had conducted in the past, I began to notice a similar feeling in me. The feeling of skepticism over whether the Government knows what it is doing especially in this case. Many a time, we have seen several Government schemes fail to address what they set out to achieve. No matter how well-intentional the objectives are, there is definitely doubt on whether the right people or the right issues are being targeted.

Today, I came across this article on the WSJ Blog with respect to India, titled – ‘How to Find the Poor‘ – the idea to allow the poor to choose a scheme that they think would benefit them the most sounds ideal I guess. Lets look at ourselves, the privileged lot if I may say so – How often do you count yourself fortunate for the number of options that are available to you when it comes to choosing a consumer product or even while you are at a food court which boasts of a variety of options at your disposal?

If the poor were given the choice to choose from a variety of benefit or welfare schemes, I get the feeling that a kind of competition would begin within the government itself. A competition around who can devise the most likable or most preferred welfare program. Now would that not help the poor in the long run? Worth a thought I presume.