June 19, 2024

India’s Anti-Poverty Programs Are Big but Troubled

NEW DELHI — India spends more on programs for the poor than most developing countries, but it has failed to eradicate poverty because of widespread corruption and faulty government administration, the World Bank said Wednesday.

“India is not getting the ‘bang for the rupee’ that its significant expenditure would seem to warrant, and the needs of important population groups remain only party addressed,” John D. Blomquist, lead economist at the World Bank, wrote in a nearly 400-page study released Wednesday.

India spent 2 percent of its gross domestic product, or $28.6 billion last year, on social programs to alleviate and prevent poverty, the World Bank said, a higher percentage than any other country in Asia and about three times China’s spending.

The programs, central to the Congress party’s platform, include food distribution and health insurance initiatives that are supposed to reach hundreds of millions of households. The report was written at the “request of the government of India” and with full participation from various government bodies, the report said.

The World Bank on Wednesday recommended a radical overhaul of India’s social programs. “Marginal changes alone may not deliver the kind of safety net which a changing India needs for its poor and for its economy,” Mr. Blomquist wrote.

One of the primary problems, the World Bank said, was “leakages” — an often-used term in development circles that refers to government administrators and middle men stealing money, food and benefits. The bank said that 59 percent of the grain allotted for public distribution to the poor does not reach those households.

Instead of distributing food, the government might be better off giving out food stamps or cash transfers that can be easily traced through technology, the World Bank said.

India, the world’s the second-fastest growing major economy, after China, has had an economic boom in recent years that is transforming urban areas and creating a new class of extremely wealthy people. But social problems, including poverty, disease and illiteracy, remain widespread.

About 455 million Indian citizens live on less than $1.25 a day, the World Bank’s poverty line. A United Nations study released last year found more people living below the poverty threshold in eight states in India than in all of sub- Saharan Africa.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/19/world/asia/19india.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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