INTRODUCTION

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Poverty targeting can be thought of as the use of policy instruments to

channel resources to a target group identifi ed below an agreed national

poverty line. In principle, these resources can be either for protectional

(to maintain welfare in the face of adverse shocks) or promotional (to

help raise welfare in the long term) purposes. Whilst debates concerning

targeting versus universalistic approaches to social benefi ts have a very

extensive history, they achieved prominence in the development context only

in the later 1980s. At that time with government budgets in many countries

under serious pressure, questions were raised concerning the effectiveness of

broadly-based subsidy schemes that often benefi ted the poor far less than

the better-off (the ‘non-poor’). The World Development Report of 1990

(World Bank, 1990) summarized evidence on the degree of leakage from

general subsidies and stressed the importance of a labor-intensive pattern

of growth and the development of the human capital of the poor, combined

with targeted social safety net measures, as the long-run solution to poverty.

Broadly speaking this view has remained the conventional wisdom.1

This volume surveys the experiences with poverty targeting in a number

of large economies in South Asia (India) and South East Asia (Thailand,

Philippines and Indonesia) as well as in the People’s Republic of China

(PRC). In some of these countries poverty targeting has a relatively long

history stemming from longstanding social welfare concerns (India and

to some extent the Philippines and PRC), whilst elsewhere it originated

principally in the late 1990s in response to the impact of the regional

Financial Crisis (Thailand and Indonesia). The focus is principally on

measures that provide subsidized food, employment, access to health and

other social facilities and occasionally cash transfers. The use of microfi

nance is considered separately in Chapter 7 of this volume.2 The country

studies that are chapters in this volume present information on these

interventions in considerable detail. In India and Indonesia there is a very

extensive ‘grey cover’ literature on the impact of targeted interventions,

and the country studies survey these offi cial or quasi-offi cial evaluations.

In the Philippines, PRC and Thailand there are fewer offi cial evaluations

of targeting measures available and the country authors draw heavily on

their own work in assessing poverty impact. This opening chapter brings

together the results from the selected country cases and also draws on the

wider literature on poverty and development. To clarify some of the issues

it begins with an introduction to the theory and practice of targeting.