Some people think of Aadhaar as a magic bullet for India. Others oppose it for privacy concerns. The government has showcased Aadhaar as a tool for targeted subsidy payments. As with all government programmes, the public should be sceptical, and the government must demonstrate through a cost-benefit analysis that the expenditure of public money is justified. Aadhaar can only address the issue of subsidies having ghost and multiple beneficiaries. In addition to the money spent on Aadhaar, there are the complexities of Aadhaar-integration for each subsidy scheme. The costs are front-loaded, the benefits come much later. Is it worth building Aadhaar? In a recent study at the National Institute of Public Finance Policy (NIPFP), we undertook a cost-benefit analysis of Aadhaar from this perspective. We find that the internal rate of return on building Aadhaar is over 50 per cent. This suggests that we should proceed with Aadhaar in order to run subsidy programmes better. The concerns about privacy can be reduced by limiting Aadhaar to those individuals who benefit from subsidies.
The main conclusion of the study (http://goo.gl/31gBQ) is that it is worth undertaking the expenditure on Aadhaar, if only to plug leakages arising from ghost and duplicate beneficiaries. The financial justification for Aadhaar does not require it to cover the entire population, and it does not require the scheme to have multiple uses.
In developing countries, proposals to spend money on subsidy programmes are generally seen
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