Empowering beneficiaries in the monitoring regime for welfare schemes seems to be a good way of ensuring that these schemes are implemented in the spirit that they had been intended.
Empowering beneficiaries in the monitoring regime for welfare schemes seems to be a good way of ensuring that these schemes are implemented in the spirit that they had been intended. A team of economics professors from universities based in the US conducted an experiment to try and improve the delivery of welfare programmes in developing countries. They tested an approach in Telangana in the context of the Rythu Bandhu Scheme (RBS), an income-support scheme for farmers in the state. Various implementation problems, such as cheques not being delivered or only being issued with the payment of a bribe, had been reported.
To improve the programme’s implementation, the researchers worked with the state government to call over 20,000 RBS beneficiaries (phone-based monitoring system) and ask a few basic questions about whether they received their payments or whether they had to pay a bribe for it.
Farmers had a better experience with the scheme in areas with phone-based monitoring, where they were 1.5% more likely to receive their payments than areas where there was no such monitoring. The monitoring also benefited the disadvantaged squarely, with farmers in the bottom quarter of land holdings 3.3% more likely to encash their cheques. And benefits were similar for farmers with and without phones, suggesting that government officers did not cater only to those with a phone.
However, incentives still need to be built into the system for those tasked with ensuring full implementation of welfare schemes, and this greater accountability can be generated by providing explicit rewards or sanctions or by linking the salary of these officers to implementation results. With mobile phones becoming more ubiquitous, this system, after modifying it adequately, can be implemented in other contexts and environments at little to no cost.