This article argues that social transfers as such, are a ‘good thing’. They can alleviate the immediate economic impact of poverty and vulnerability. It cautions, however, that such transfers may be a ‘bad thing’, since they can divert attention from the real obstacles to equitable, inclusive development and social justice, and postpone actions for structural change.
The article examines social transfers in the form of income supplements, employment guarantees, and transfers for affirmative action in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. It argues that additional factors are needed to render such social protection policy instruments genuinely transformative. These would include transparency of information and freedom of the press, among others. They would also include policies to address land reform, an industrial strategy to create decent work, progressive fiscal policy, policies for social inclusion and policies at the international level.
This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 42.6 (2011) Transformative Social Protection: Reflections on South Asian Policy Experiences