India: IMF supports basic income

... recognising existing welfare programmes as “inefficient”

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has published a report suggesting that basic income would be better than their welfare system at supporting low income households in India. Similar evidence has been found for both Indonesia and Peru, where basic income was found to be beneficial compared to current welfare systems.

The report uses 2011-12 National Sample Survey data to analyse the Public Distribution System (PDS) in India, where subsidies for food (wheat, rice, sugar) and energy (kerosene) are provided at different levels according to a person’s position in relation to the poverty line. This welfare system was found to be both inefficient, with leakage in the procurement-transportation-distribution chain, and inequitable, in that around 20% of low income households do not receive any subsidy

The analysis compared PDS to a model of basic income. Their analysis found that a basic income outperforms PDS in terms of coverage, as basic income is universal. However, the analysis showed that the introduction of basic income would mean reduced targeting and generosity for lower income groups. At the lower end of the income scale, some households will gain in terms of relative benefits, whereas some will lose out. In the bottom decile the analysis found a greater share of losing households (58% losers compared to 42% gainers).

The authors noted that basic income would bring about a benefit in eliminating current operational inefficiencies in the PDS. They suggested that savings from this could be used to fund a more generous basic income that could mitigate the losses in lower income deciles. They ran another analysis with a higher basic income and found a greater share of gainers than losers in the bottom decile (60% gainers compared to 40% losers), suggesting a higher basic income would be more beneficial for this group. Alternatively, the authors also discuss the possibility of introducing additional programmes for households in this group, to supplement basic income and ensure they do not lose out.

More information at:

David Coady, Delphine Prady, “Universal Basic Income in Developing Countries: Options, and Illustration for India”, IMF Working Papers, July 31st2018

Rema Hanna, Benjamin A. Olken, “Universal Basic Incomes vs. Targeted Transfers: Anti-Poverty Programs in Developing Countries”, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Nº24939, August 2018

Debate over universal basic income steps up as IMF weighs impacts”, Development Pathways, August 14th2018

Growing debate around universality” sees diverging estimates of basic income”, Development Pathways, September 3rd2018


By Hannah Trippier
(Source:; September 13, 2018;
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