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MGNREGA versus 2G PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 07 February 2012 00:00
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No one’s too concerned about social sector losses Now that the frenzy over the 2G scam has abated with the Supreme Court ordering cancellation of 122 licences issued by A Raja, perhaps it’s time to shift attention to other areas where the loss to the exchequer is many times larger over the long run. With the Budget preparations in full swing and the government trying its best to expand social sector spending, the government needs to see whether there has been any progress in reducing the amount of leakages in these schemes. While much of the focus on the UPA flagship MGNREGA has been concentrated on Uttar Pradesh, thanks to the forthcoming elections there, FE columnist Surjit Bhalla points to how incorrect this is (http://www.financialexpress.com/news/column-corruption-by-another-name/907702/). Bhalla uses data from the government’s National Sample Survey which collects data on employment in various public works programmes—MGNREGA and non-MGNREGA—as well as the wages paid in them. The data is revealing since it tells us how many poor households were employed in MGNREGA and how much of the wages given out by MGNREGA accrued to them. Based on the proportion that went to the poor, Bhalla calculates a corruption index for MGNREGA. Believe it or not, UP is one of the better states in the sense that just half the wages go to the non-poor as compared to 75% in the case of Andhra Pradesh—the purpose of the scheme is to benefit the poor, isn’t it? This analysis for MGNREGA can be multiplied across almost any other type of social sector expenditure. Several years ago, for instance, Kirit Parikh had used NSS data to show that very small amounts of the huge subsidy on kerosene were going to the poor—despite this, however, the kerosene subsidy continues with no attempt to fix it. Since it is unlikely the government is going to cut down on social sector expenditure in either the forthcoming Budget or in the ones that will follow, it is important that it looks closely at the possibility of direct cash transfers using UIDAI numbers, for instance. Any hike in social spending without this is unacceptable.

 

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