Hidden Subsidies

Publication Year : 2002

Many governments use price subsidisation (total costs less total revenues from user charges) to meet social protection objectives in lieu of, or in addition to, direct income transfers. Such subsidies may be perceived as influencing behaviour to further other socially desirable policies. For example, the price response induced by lowering the price of schooling will both lower the cost of living for the beneficiaries and also increase the investment in education more than a similar income transfer would achieve. The incidences of benefits from a general price subsidy are proportional to purchases and can be deduced from the pattern of expenditures. Some goods are inappropriate vehicles for redistribution since subsidies on them will not only accrue mainly to the rich they will actually increase inequality in welfare. It is therefore important to ensure that commodities chosen for price subsidisation are largely consumed by the lower income groups. Also, detailed data on such commodities should be made public to make the extent of subsidy easily tractable.