To The Chief Minister, Odisha
Poverty is the defining problem in Odisha and in India and cash is the direct weapon against poverty. To cure poverty, give money to people.
The concept of a universal basic income (UBI) is a hot topic among the developmental economist as well as Silicon Valley moguls. Providing cash, rather than, say rice or subsidized house, or a free bicycle has the virtues of “universality, simplicity and unconditionality”. Universality is important as the Indian government struggles to determine who is poor and who is not. Simplicity is important because complexity invites corruption and inefficiency. Unconditionality is important because many programs create perverse incentives. For example, urbanization (migration to cities) provides best path from poverty to prosperity, yet rural-employment schemes keep workers home at their villages. They continue to stay poor.
The evidence from cash-transfer experiments abroad, like Give Directly in Africa (www.givedirectly.org) and Brazil’s Bolsa Familia, is quite positive. In 10 years Brazil has reduced extreme poverty by 50 %. 50 million of its citizen get direct cash grant every month from the government (World Bank report). Direct cash grant has empowered women, reduced domestic violence, improved nutrition of the families, and kept their children at school at a higher rate. The poor have also started more small businesses.
Sir, you have been a progressive Chief Minister for Odisha. You have been working hard to reduce Odisha’s abject poverty especially in Southern and Western districts of Odisha. You have started many poverty alleviation schemes with partial success. Odisha’s poverty rate is still unacceptably high, one of the worst In India. The Central Government is thinking about implementing Universal Basic Income in India. Please be the first CM. in India to implement it in Odisha. It will be your lasting legacy.
With Best Wishes,
Dr Saheb Sahu