I fully agree. I think that one of the big challenges we face is how neoliberal ideology has dominated the social security debate, with calls for “targeting the poor”, conditions, workfare, etc. We’ve called it Tea Party Social Security, since the Tea Party would be proud of it. It essentially mimics the approach of 19th Century Poor Relief and programmes like LEAP are great examples: how on earth can a programme reaching 2.5% of the population have any meaningful impact, especially, when - as you point out for Nigeria - the vast majority of the population in developing countries is living in poverty? If anyone is interested, I wrote a blog on the rise of neoliberal social security, which can be found at the link below:
While a BIG sounds attractive, I actually think that a move to a lifecycle social protection system is probably a better and more natural approach. It’s what most countries end up doing and it does direct resources to more vulnerable individuals (children, older people, people with disabilities, widows, etc). And, it will end up with countries investing significantly more in social protection, with greater redistribution and equity. But, this will only happen over a period of decades. There are no quick solutions. but it’s important for countries to start on the right track. It’s gratifying to see that Mexico is eventually moving away from the poor relief (Oportunidades) model by implementing a universal pension, although there is a long way to go.
On the topic of fuel subsidies, we need to take care not to advocate for the elimination of alll, without careful analysis. Kerosene is a good example. Bart notes that, in Asia, 15% of Kerosene subsidies go to the lowest income quintile, which isn’t too bad: it’s almost equitable distribution. It will be a much higher percentage of income in the poorest households than in those who are better-off and removing the subsidy could cause significant damage to those on the lowest incomes, especially if it is replaced with a poverty targeted cash transfer that excludes the majority of households on low incomes. And, as I said earlier, most people in Asia are living in poverty still and highly vulnerable to falling into greater poverty at any point in time so they also benefit.
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