Edited by John Weiss
Chapter 1: Experiences with Poverty Targeting in Asia: An Overview
John Weiss INTRODUCTION Poverty targeting can be thought of as the use of policy instruments to channel resources to a target group identiﬁed below an agreed national poverty line. In principle, these resources can be either for protectional (to maintain welfare in the face of adverse shocks) or promotional (to help raise welfare in the long term) purposes. Whilst debates concerning targeting versus universalistic approaches to social beneﬁts have a very extensive history, they achieved prominence in the development context only in the later 1980s. At that time with government budgets in many countries under serious pressure, questions were raised concerning the effectiveness of broadly-based subsidy schemes that often beneﬁted the poor far less than the better-off (the ‘non-poor’). The World Development Report of 1990 (World Bank, 1990) summarized evidence on the degree of leakage from general subsidies and stressed the importance of a labor-intensive pattern of growth and the development of the human capital of the poor, combined with targeted social safety net measures, as the long-run solution to poverty. Broadly speaking this view has remained the conventional wisdom.1 This volume surveys the experiences with poverty targeting in a number of large economies in South Asia (India) and South East Asia (Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia) as well as in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In some of these countries poverty targeting has a relatively long history stemming from longstanding social welfare concerns (India and to some extent the Philippines and PRC), whilst elsewhere it originated...
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