Edited by Robert J. Brent
Chapter 12: Poverty Alleviation Programs and their Impacts: A Survey
Jyotsna Jalan* 1 Introduction Since the early 1980s, the Chinese economy has grown at a rapid pace with an average growth rate of well over 7–8 percent per annum. But a significant proportion of the population remains poor, vulnerable, and excluded from the growth process.1 Similarly, the Indian economy has witnessed phenomenal growth rates since the early 1990s yet nearly a quarter of the population live below the poverty line. Other examples include Mexico where the headcount ratio was higher in 1996 compared to the 1980s despite an impressive growth rate of 9.7 percent. Examples like those mentioned above abound. It is obvious that rapid economic growth is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to alleviate poverty at least in the short to medium term. Cost-effective social safety-net interventions by governments and/or civil society are essential to sustain the high economic growth rates, to make such growth socially inclusive and to reduce poverty simultaneously. There is an emerging consensus among policy makers that even in economies with high growth rates, government intervention is necessary to protect the poor and the vulnerable (at least in the short and medium term). How does one assess whether the growth process and/or the social safety nets actually reach the poor and the vulnerable? Often disentangling the growth effects from program intervention impacts is challenging since one needs to determine the extent of improvements over and above that which would have happened during the course of economic growth. In evaluating a government intervention...
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