Ideas to Action:

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Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

Construction workers laying a road

Do the Poor Want Cash Transfers or Public Services?

Nearly 4,000 people in rural Bihar, India, answered the question, “Would you rather have the government budget spent on cash transfers or public health and nutrition services?” According to a blog post by Khemani, Habyarimana, and Nooruddin, “only 13 percent chose cash if it came at the expense of spending to improve public health and nutrition.” The pattern is similar when comparing cash to roads, with the vast majority of people preferring roads. 

Reducing Poverty in India with the Power of Digital Payments and UBI

Demonetization is yesterday’s news. The India of today is going full steam ahead towards a digital economy powered by financial inclusion, the mobile revolution, and Aadhaar—the biometric ID system that now covers 90 percent of its 1.3 billion population. And the social compact of the future will restructure subsidies and provide a basic income for the poor.

Two Views on Fighting World Poverty

Yesterday, Lant Pritchett expressed his bewilderment at my open letter to Bill Gates advocating cash for the poor rather than chickens. I think Lant’s right and he’s wrong. We have to focus on the big picture and economic growth as a society, but I think there’s a strong argument for directly tackling the worst poverty now.

Getting Kinky with Chickens

“Chickens versus cash” might be the “best investment” for a very narrow question, but I argue it probably isn’t in the top 100 value for money research questions in development economics.

Universal Basic Income: What Would Mahatma Gandhi Do?

Should India go for Universal Basic Income or not? This year's Economic Survey includes a thoughtful, cogent, and thorough discussion of the potential to replace India’s vast complex of subsidies and targeted in-kind benefits to the poor with a guaranteed cash transfer to all citizens.

A Cash Bailout for Zimbabweans that Deserves Support

For once, some good economic news out of Zimbabwe: a recent humanitarian cash transfer pilot is showing promising results. While I’ve adamantly opposed a bailout for the Mugabe regime, a bailout for the population—if the cash is delivered directly to citizens—is something all friends of Zimbabwe should get behind.

How Can Digital Payments Strengthen State Capacity? Four Areas with High Potential

These recent developments in identification, combined with rising mobile phone ownership, broadening Internet access, and innovative payment delivery mechanisms, can be harnessed to transform the way states implement poverty-reduction programs and improve the lives of their citizens. Digital payments promise faster, more transparent, and lower-cost delivery for existing cash-based government transfers, and can also transform the way governments deliver subsidies. In a new background paper, Dan Radcliffe reviews the evidence on the gains from digital payments and pinpoints four ways in which they can improve development outcomes.

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