Mumbai: Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the union government is reportedly considering income support for farmers to alleviate agricultural distress and, ultimately, secure the rural vote. A new research paper Moizza Binat Sar of the Overseas Development Institute, a UK-based think tank, suggests that such a cash-transfer initiative could be a big vote-winner.
Analysing cash transfer programmes in Brazil, Pakistan and the Philippines, Sar finds that the cash transfer schemes generated political returns for leaders in all three countries, and helped them consolidate their voter base. In these countries, cash transfers were launched in response to an economic and political crisis.
For instance, in Pakistan, the Benazir Income Support Programme was established in 2008 to counter the debilitating effects of the international food, fuel and financial crises. The Pakistan president at the time, Asif Ali Zardari, also used these cash transfers to solidify a fragile position within his own political party and to cement his political legitimacy nationwide.
Such was the popularity of cash transfers in these countries that the programmes survived electoral changes and are still running a decade later. The author argues that new governments did not wish to risk losing the crucial vote bank by removing a popular social security programme, and hence merely made changes to the existing programme.
Another important factor for cash transfers’ success was the support received from international donors.
The author highlights that in all three countries the World Bank played an important role in implementing cash transfers.
READ | The political economy of cash transfer programmes in Brazil, Pakistan and Philippines