Are cash transfers more effective than government services in adressing poverty? If you do settle on cash transfers, should they cover a large part of the population in the form of a basic income grant? Or should such transfers be targeted at specifically vulnerable groups? And what conditions should be attached to such transfers apart from a means test (every doesn’t even agree that means tests are a good ideas)? Should cash transfers be conditional on some ‘good behaviour’ such as sending your children to school (such as in Oportunidades in Mexico) or are such conditions unnecessary red tape separating cash from people that really need it? These and other similar questions continue to spice efforts to assist the poor and vulnerable.
The NREGA scheme in India is very much at the forefront of these debates. In a recent article Sowmya Kidambi and Aruna Roy of the MKSS argued that the complexities of conditional cash transfers make them more vulnerable to corruption than unconditional entitlements such as the NREGA. They also argue that there are important ideological difference between what they call a ‘cash dole’ and a scheme such as the NREGA that is based on the right to work. Read their article here.