Leaks prevent benefits from trickling down

Leaks prevent benefits from trickling down
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First Published: Thu, Jul 02 2009. 11 27 PM IST

Welfare schemes: The UPA government’s flagship job scheme under the NREG Act provides a guarantee of 100 days of work in a year. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
Welfare schemes: The UPA government’s flagship job scheme under the NREG Act provides a guarantee of 100 days of work in a year. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
Updated: Thu, Jul 02 2009. 11 27 PM IST
New Delhi: The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government increased outlay for the social sector by 8% in the first five years of its rule, but leakages in the welfare programmes have prevented the benefits from fully reaching the needy, according to the Economic Survey 2009.
“The reach of public and quasi-public goods and services supplied by the state to people still leave a lot of scope for improvement,” it said.
Welfare schemes: The UPA government’s flagship job scheme under the NREG Act provides a guarantee of 100 days of work in a year. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
The share of the government’s spending on social services, including rural development, in total expenditure increased to 19.44% in the year ended 31 March from 11.23% in 2002-03, the report on the state of the country’s economy said.
The UPA first assumed office in 2004 and was voted for a second term in the recently held general election.
Education was a big beneficiary of government outlays, where spending as a proportion of total spending increased to 10.8% in 2008-09 from 9.5% in 2003-04.
Expenditure on social sector as a percentage of GDP in 2008-09 was 6.72%, compared with 6.43% in the year before, the survey said.
It said even though some innovative steps were taken in implementing welfare programmes, a lot more needs to done to ensure transparency.
“More emphasis is required on better governance and improved service delivery so that the targeted groups of people are actually benefited from the schemes implemented by the Centre and states,” the survey said.
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The UPA in its first term launched several welfare schemes and upgraded others. These include Bharat Nirman to develop rural infrastructure, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) that guarantees at least 100 days of employment in a year to one member of a poor rural household at minimum wages, and the Total Sanitation Campaign aimed at providing all households with water and sanitation facilities.
To plug leakages in these schemes, the survey has proposed an Internet-accessible accountability system where information about funds allocated and expenditure incurred could be accessed by the public.
The unique identity, or UID, initiative launched by the government will also help in checking corruption, it said. The UID project aims to provide each citizen an identity card and number, similar to the US social security number.
The UID number would help in proper targeting and ensuring services reaching intended beneficiaries of state programmes and hence, serve as the basis of efficient delivery of services, the report said.
Based on the UID, all citizens should be issued a smart card containing specified data, which would determine subsidies and entitlements to them, it said.
To check wastages, the survey called for involving local communities and Panchayati Raj institutions, or local governance bodies, in state-sponsored welfare initiatives.
An expert, however, said the spending on social sector is inadequate. “I feel that at least 8-9% of GDP should be spent on the social sector, besides the institutional structure should be improved,” said S.L. Rao, chairman of Institute for Social and Economic Change, a Bangalore-based think tank. “There are schools, but not teachers, primary health care system is there, but no doctors. I feel the panchayats (local bodies) should be empowered and that these schemes should be audited.
“The problem is that legislature does not want to give up its power, therefore, not enabling the panchayats to participate in these programmes, which has given rise to corruption,” Rao said.
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First Published: Thu, Jul 02 2009. 11 27 PM IST