Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Teach a man how to fish? Social transfers in a “hungry” nation

by Hussain Bux Mallah

You can teach a man to fish, but does that ensure his household’s nutrition?
Photo credit:

In the last two decades, there has been a lot of debate around social transfers, particularly cash transfer programmes. Do cash transfers give people dignity of choice, help them mitigate shocks and empower them, or do they “patronize” and provide an incentive for doing less work? Opponents almost always evoke the “teach a man to fish” proverb. However, there is an old joke built off this same proverb that says that even if one is taught how to fish it is likely that ‘he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day anyway.’ There is a grain of truth to this: with or without conditions, one can’t control what people choose to do with their time and resources. Still, many countries do try to ascertain the possibility that recipients spend cash transfers responsibly. In the United States, ten states require passing tests for drug use before one is eligible for welfare cash assistance or benefits.