What the Govt Should Do and What It Shouldn't - Vivek Kaul's Diary
Free Reports

What the Govt Should Do and What It Shouldn't

Jul 8, 2016


The government of India over the years, at least in theory, has tried to make the lives of its citizens comfortable, by trying to deliver various goods and services at a subsidised rate.

And it has failed miserably at it. The leakage is extremely high i.e. much of the stuff the government wants to deliver gets stolen before it reaches the individuals it is meant for.

54% of the wheat that the government distributes through the public distribution system gets siphoned off. So does 15% of the rice and 48% of the sugar.

And the stealing doesn't end at rice and wheat. 40% of fertilizer, 46% of kerosene and 24% of cooking gas is also stolen.

The government suffers from what economists call a principal-agent problem. As Vijay Joshi writes in India's Long Road-The Search for Prosperity: "The government...suffers from a 'principal-agent problem'. Its functionaries (legislators, bureaucrats) may pursue their own agendas rather than act in the public interest. They may shirk their duties or feather their own nests."

While politicians and high-level bureaucrats are a part of the government, they are not the ones that people of this country deal with on a regular basis. The people deal with low level officials, from clerks at the local transport authority who won't lift a finger without being bribed to the shopkeepers running the public distribution system, throughout the country.

And the incentives of these individuals are not in line with the public interest. Hence, there is pilferage and the subsidies that are meant for the people of this country never reach them.

This leads to a lot of money being spent by the government getting wasted. It leads to the government having to incur a higher expenditure than it would have if things reached the people they were meant for.

It also leads to an active black economy, where everything that is stolen from the public distribution system, is sold in the open market, at a higher price.

So what is the way around this? Should the government stop subsidising the people of this country and in the process save the money that gets wasted? Not really.

As Joshi writes: "There is a crucial distinction to be made between on the one hand the state paying for goods and services and on the other hand the state producing goods and services. For example, 'food security' may be thought of in common usage as a 'public good'. However, even if it is agreed that the state should pay for food security, it does not follow that the state should carry out the task of actually delivering food to people."

The fact that the government tries to deliver rice, wheat, sugar, kerosene, cooking gas, etc., to people, leads to the principle-agent problem and all the corruption that follows. So what is the way out? As Joshi writes: "The state could enable the poor to buy food in the market, at market prices, by transferring purchasing power to them directly in the form of cash or food vouchers. A system along these lines may be more effective in reaching poor people, and also less corrupt. This example is not chosen at random: it is highly relevant to the problems facing India's public distribution system(PDS) for food delivery."

Such a system is already available in case of cooking gas. It's called Pahal. In this case, the subsidy amount on a cooking gas cylinder is paid directly into the bank account of the individual, instead of the cylinder being sold at a lower subsidised price, as was the case earlier.

In late June, 2016, the finance secretary Ashok Lavasa, told PTI that the government had saved Rs 14,872 crore by paying the subsidy amount directly into the account of people, instead of trying to deliver the cooking gas cylinder at a subsidised amount. The government has been able to save money by being able to bring down the cooking gas cylinders being sold in black.

 EXPOSED: The Crony
Socialism of Narendra Modi...
 he Crony Socialism of Narendra ModiWhile crony capitalism has taken a beating under Narendra Modi, crony socialism is alive and kicking.

Yes, the public sector is back and so are the HUGE losses!

And in case you thought that this is a problem which we've always had...well, you are in for a surprise. The public sector is burning money at probably the fastest pace ever.

And Vivek Kaul reveals it all in his latest Special Report - "The Crony Socialism of Narendra Modi".

A must read for everyone who is interested in the present state of the country and where it is headed...Plus, it's Absolutely Free!

So, don't delay...Click here to download this Special Report right away!

As the Economic Survey of 2015-2016 points out: "The Pahal scheme has been a big success. The use of Aadhaar has made black marketing harder, and LPG leakages have reduced by about 24 per cent with limited exclusion of genuine beneficiaries."

The real benefit to the government and the citizens will come when the government is able to implement the cash transfer programme (or what it calls direct benefit transfer) to other areas, where the leakages are high. For this to happen, citizens need to have Aadhaar cards and these cards need to be linked to savings bank accounts.

A lot of progress has been made in the issuance of Aadhar cards. As the Economic Survey points out: "The current government has built on the previous government's support for the Aadhaar program: 210 million Aadhaar cards were created in 2015, at an astonishing rate of over 4 million cards per week. 975 million individuals now hold an Aadhaar card - over 75 percent of the population and nearly 95 per cent of the adult population."

An Aadhaar card is necessary in order to identify the right beneficiary. This helps in eliminating bogus identities, through which people claim subsidies. But for the government to be able to transfer money to individuals, the Aadhaar card needs to be linked to a bank account.

As of June 2016, the 22.3 crore bank accounts had been opened under the Jan Dhan Yojana. This is a huge jump from 5.3 crore bank accounts from September 2014. Nevertheless, a lot still needs to be done on this front. As the Economic Survey points out: "Despite Jan Dhan's record-breaking feats, basic savings account penetration in most states is still relatively low - 46 per cent on average and above 75 per cent in only 2 states (Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh)."

The Economic Survey was published in February 2016. Given that some time has elapsed since then, the figures quote above would have improved since then. What also does not help is the fact that only 27 per cent of villages have a bank within a distance of 5 kilometres. This means that last mile connectivity is a problem.
This essentially means that if the government moves to cash transfers immediately in a whole host of areas, chances of people being left out because they do not have a bank account, are high. This needs to be set right in the years to come. Of course, it is easier said than done.

The savings from such a system, if and when it is in place, will be huge. As Nitin Gadkari, the road transport and highways minister recently said: "If bogus claims are removed from scholarships, pension, subsidies, ration cards and other schemes and these are linked to Jan Dhan Yojna and Aadhar, it will result in savings of Rs 1 lakh crore to the exchequer." For all the leakages that happen, Gadkari might just be right.

Vivek Kaul is the Editor of the Diary and The Vivek Kaul Letter. Vivek is a writer who has worked at senior positions with the Daily News and Analysis (DNA) and The Economic Times, in the past. He is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. The latest book in the trilogy Easy Money: The Greatest Ponzi Scheme Ever and How It Is Set to Destroy the Global Financial System was published in March 2015. The books were bestsellers on Amazon. His writing has also appeared in The Times of India, The Hindu, The Hindu Business Line, Business World, Business Today, India Today, Business Standard, Forbes India, Deccan Chronicle, The Asian Age, Mutual Fund Insight, Wealth Insight, Swarajya, Bangalore Mirror among others.

Disclaimer: The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Equitymaster do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader. Please read the detailed Terms of Use of the web site.

Recent Articles

The Market Gods Are Laughing July 13, 2018
President Trump escalated the trade war yesterday, and the Chinese say they will retaliate. Where is this trade war heading? Bill shares his insights.
MSP Leads to Excess Procurement of Rice, Which Leads to Waste of Water and Money July 12, 2018
Wheat, MSP, Food Corporation of India, CACP
We're Living in a Deep State Paradise July 12, 2018
Bill Bonner offer insights into how Big Technology is working with the feds to use data to control every aspect of our lives.
The Multiple Problems with the Minimum Support Price (MSP) System July 11, 2018
The price signals that MSP sends out, creates its own set of problems.

Equitymaster requests your view! Post a comment on "What the Govt Should Do and What It Shouldn't". Click here!

8 Responses to "What the Govt Should Do and What It Shouldn't"


Jul 10, 2016

Why mr.Kaul is not invited for the post of finance minister? I see an extreme negative bias in his articles without any understanding of polity. Author also patronised RBI governor against government. The same governor was economic adviser to UPA government,he could never show his excellence during his tenure and he was governor for one year under UPA, He could never perform during UPA regime both as adviser or governor . He could not control inflation. Let us accept one basic fact that RBI alone cannot achieve without active support of government support. Let us give some credit to government for our economic achievement.


S V Pathak

Jul 10, 2016

Though the followings are not directly related to the post, I would like to know your views.

1.In the premium of the New Equity issue, what % is inflated due to the collusion of the Beurocretes, Issue managers and politicins?

2.In small Cap prices,what % is due to rigging and what due to their performance




Jul 9, 2016

Dear Sir,
We Indians are so ingenious that we can and have produced duplicate/fake Aadhar cards with fingerprints of the individual supposed to be holding it. Faking a photo is a minor thing. So the solution you suggest for the problem is no solution.Suggest something more ingenious and one that we, the Indians, will not be able to fake.


manish nagrecha

Jul 8, 2016

Dear Sir

If you want then dare ( yes have courage and do it ) and compare what is fact today and two year before data ( either it may be waste of subsidy , lake of electricity laking , foreign policy result and what not )

hope it is clear



Jul 8, 2016

What also does not help is the fact that only 27 per cent of villages have a bank within a distance of 5 kilometres. This means that last mile connectivity is a problem..

Can't this be addressed by opening a savings account in Post Office which is wide spread and present across India or converting the Post Office into bank, POS issuing debit cards.



Jul 8, 2016

Mr.Gadkari is 100% correct wrt bogus pension claims etc as mentioned in your article.

The question is who is stopping the govt from taking stringent action against the errant authorities who do not perform their duty of investigating punishing such bogus claimers?


Shanth Barath

Jul 8, 2016

I dont believe in food security and subsidy schemes. Food security should be provided to people who are unable to work (disabled). Everyone should be given JOB SECURITY (The power to buy anything the common man wants). Is it so difficult to create and deliver JOBS promptly to the people? Govt should improve the existing MNREGA or deliver any other job guarantee scheme promptly.
See what is happening in many states today. If a person works for 2 days/month, he would be able to buy rice, etc for a month. He has no incentive to work for rest of the month (Though he may have to buy the veggies, fruits,etc, he rarely buys them). This creates a shortage for workers on the field. When people are left alone with nothing to do, they start doing all anti-social things. Remember, An idle mind is a devil's workshop'. Govt should think seriously on these lines



Jul 8, 2016


Like (25)
Equitymaster requests your view! Post a comment on "What the Govt Should Do and What It Shouldn't". Click here!