Existing system and its challenges
Under direct transfer, the difference between the market price and subsidized price is directly transferred to the beneficiary in the form of cash in proportion to the quantity uplifted from the market.*
In the Union Budget 2011, the government announced a direct transfer of subsidies to BPL households which is a drastic departure from the existing indirect or price subsidy system wherein subsidies are routed through manufacturers who are required to sell goods below the market rate.
The change in subsidy policy follows in response to the following shortcomings in the current system.
- Market distortions
- Unresponsiveness to customer needs
- Poor targeting of BPL population
- Diversion and leakages
- Under recoveries for Oil Manufacturing Companies (OMCs).
The new policy would help poor access basic goods by reducing demand constraints. Since now the manufacturers and retailers would be selling the commodities at market determined price universally; this policy would not only put a check on dual pricing, market distortions and leakages but would also remove the burden of under recoveries on OMCs. However, the real success of the policy lies in the accuracy and efficiency in identification of worthy beneficiaries, i.e. BPL Households.
International best practices
Several countries including Jamaica, Philippines, Turkey, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa, Morocco and United States have adopted this system in the form of Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programs2 Under such programs, direct cash is provided to the poor families on condition that it’s used for verifiable investments in human capital, such as regular school attendance or used in attaining basic nutrition and health care.
The largest and the most successful conditional cash transfer program is the Bolsa Família Program (BFP) in Brazil that covered close to 100 percent of Brazil's poor in 20072. Under the programme, the government transfers cash straight to a family subject to conditions such as school attendance, nutritional monitoring, pre-natal and post-natal tests. The entire system is managed through efficient targeting, disbursement and regular monitoring of the disbursed funds.
Evolution in India
The government in order to leverage technology solutions and in particular the Aadhaar i.e. the Unique Identification (UID) programme for this purpose, constituted a task force on “Direct Transfer of Subsidies on Kerosene, LPG & Fertilizer” headed by Nandan Nilekani (Chairperson of UID Authority). The task force proposed the Solution Architecture (Core Subsidy Management System (CSMS)) to achieve a fully electronic back-office process for direct transfer of subsidy. The system would automate all business processes related to direct subsidy transfer and can be customized according to the business rules. At the very core of the system would be: Aadhaar Integration, ERP Integration and Integration with nodal bank and payments gateway.
As the task force proposed in its report, the new subsidy system for kerosene would be implemented in 2 phases:
|Direct transfer of subsidy through state governments/UT Administration
- States purchase commodity from manufacturers at market price
- Central government transfers the differential subsidy directly to the state govts./UT
- Subsidy amount is proportional to commodity uplifted from the retail points in a state/UT.
- States reform their distribution system based on the CSMS system proposed by the Task Force.
|Subsidy transfer to beneficiaries
- The cash equivalent of subsidy is transferred directly to beneficiaries through their bank accounts by linking transactions to Aadhaar
- The commodity purchase and then transfer of cash subsidy to their account will be based on successful authentication of the beneficiary through Aadhaar at the point of sale.
Source: Report submitted by the task force on "Direct Transfer of Subsidies on Kerosene, LPG & Fertilizer", GoI.
Impact on government
- The new system is expected to reduce this cost and subsidy bill through better targeting
- In the Union Budget 2012-13, target is to keep 2012-13 subsidies under 2 percent of GDP and under 1.75 percent of GDP in the next 3 years 3
- Government endeavors to scale up and roll out Aadhaar enabled payments for various government schemes in at least 50 districts within next 6 months
- Public sector OMCs have launched LPG transparency portals to improve customer service and reduce leakage.
Critical success factors
- The government’s efficiency in dealing with the fundamental issues like the basis of targeting, definition of poverty line & identification of intended beneficiaries
- Effectively subsidizing the poor for fertilizer or kerosene once the prices are market determined and are liable to fluctuate
- Devising a methodology to transfer the cash subsidy to the poor
- State government’s endeavor in taking up fundamental reforms required in Public Distribution System (PDS)
- Identification of beneficiaries
Selection criteria should be kept broad-based and inclusive. Lessons can be learnt from the successful implementation of Brazil’s Bolsa Família Program.
- Vulnerability to fluctuating market prices
Prices can be averaged out yearly based on forecasts. Cash subsidy should allow flexibility in the choice of commodity to the beneficiary. The amount of subsidy should be calculated based on the number of individuals per household rather than assuming an average household size.
- Transfer of cash subsidy
To expedite the implementation, bank accounts can initially be opened for one member per household. The withdrawal can be done at bank branches and ATMs through debit cards and through the business correspondent model using smart cards, PoS devices, etc.
1 Financial times - Lexicon
2 Direct cash subsidy: Challenges for implementation; Business Standard, 25 April 2011
3 Union Budget 2012-13