Towards a comprehensive social security system: an assessment of recent UBI proposals
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Citation (published version)Dilip Mookherjee. 2017. "Towards a Comprehensive Social Security System: An Assessment of Recent UBI Proposals." Indian Journal of Human Development, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp. 173 - 176. https://doi.org/10.1177/0973703017733880
Few people would disagree that welfare programmes in India are characterized by corruption, mistargeting and poor coordination, and impose high financial and environmental costs. A more pernicious consequence is the political culture of clientelistic vote buying they help create. Parties woo swing voters with the delivery of private short-term benefits such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) work, cheap food, liquor, sarees, domestic appliances, cash, subsidized loans, loan waivers and access to government services. Public goods or systematic programmes for lowering poverty, dependence, ignorance and disease (such as land reform, education, sanitation and public health) are neglected. Clientelism thrives on the provision of short-term benefits to a subsection of the poor, keeping them poor and perpetuating dependence on their patrons. Voting decisions of the poor are driven by self-interested considerations of securing political patronage, rather than expressing judgement on governance. It is no wonder then that public policy disasters and corruption scandals scarcely dent vote margins of popular chief ministers. Democracy thereby fails to deliver government accountability or long-term development.