Chapter 2: Poverty Targeting in India
Pradeep Srivastava INTRODUCTION This chapter addresses two broad questions related to poverty alleviation in India: how much in aggregate does the government spend on povertytargeted programs and how effective have these programs been in targeting the poor and in alleviating poverty? The apparently straightforward query as to how much the country spends on poverty alleviation, and how the money is spent, has several complex answers. Like the proverbial elephant being explored by seven blind men, the answer depends on the slice put under the analytical lens. There are several reasons for this, starting from the fact that in intensely poor countries with pervasive poverty, it is arguably legitimate to characterize a vast spectrum, if not virtually most government intervention as poverty reducing. These can include in principle investments in social and human capital, physical infrastructure, or even regulatory reforms to enhance economic growth. A ﬁrst twist of the lens to focus on more direct poverty alleviation shows a great number of programs and interventions that may be characterized as broad or activity-targeting interventions, relying on broadly deﬁned targets wherein the beneﬁt incidence is expected to be higher for the poor than for the relatively better off. These typically include government expenditures on social sectors such as health and education, particularly primary education and basic health services. A further narrowing of the lens leads to a focus on government interventions that, within the broad spectrum of activities to reduce poverty, explicitly seek to target the poor, and particularly the...
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