India Launches Massive Rural Anti-Poverty Scheme

India’s ruling Congress party has launched the “National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme”, which guarantees 100 days of work annually for one person in India’s 60 million rural families. Either the family member gets work or they get the equivalent amount in welfare. Needless to say this is a pretty ambitious plan, and the BBC estimates that it will cost between $5-25 billion.

The big question of course is whether it will work or not. A number of Indian bloggers have some pretty strong doubts. The Open Window crunches some numbers and offers a convincing argument that this is simply designed to make it look like Congress is helping the poor. Santhosh simply thinks that subsidy-driven plans never work at inspiring the entrepreneurial spirit needed to drive an economy.

As much as I would love to see this program work, their doubts seem well-founded. Corruption could cripple the program, and there doesn’t seem to be stringent enough protections against corrupt panchayat and state governments from dipping their paws into the honey pot. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong. Archana (or anyone else), what do you think?

Cross-posted at Non-Governmental Imagination.

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