Trim social spend to make it work

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 28 2013, 10:55am hrs
Taking forward the government's agenda of restructuring welfare schemes, the Economic Survey on Wednesday reiterated the need to reduce spending even in social-sector programmes through convergence, which consists of integration, combining and weeding out of schemes.

"This calls for a careful exercise in identifying overlapping schemes and weeding out or converging them. A threshold level could also be fixed for the schemes as a critical minimum investment or outlay is needed for any programme to be successful, the survey said. The total expenditure on social services is pegged at R28.3 lakh crore, which is 28.28% of the GDP in 2012-13.

A committee led by BK Chaturvedi had proposed reducing the centrally-sponsored schemes to 59 from 147 at present for which the government has set aside R1.8 lakh crore.

The committee on Restructuring of Centrally Sponsored Schemes suggested that new centrally sponsored schemes should have a minimum Plan expenditure of R10,000 crore over the plan period and be included under flagship schemes.

The panel's recommendations are now expected to be taken up by the Cabinet before the restructured social sector schemes are put in motion from April.

While the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) system with the help of unique identification numbers (UID) can plug these leakages, the survey said that there is also a need to address delivery-related issues in a mission mode to ensure optimum utilization of funds and to convert outlays into outcomes.

The survey also drew attention to decentralization to check problems like leakages and mishandling of funds.