Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Power of Outright Bribery

September 1st, 2009 · 3 Comments

Left-of-center politicians are often demonized for simply “throwing money at a problem” instead of concocting a more innovative solution. But there are, in fact, instances in which direct cash incentives are by far the most efficient tact. Such appears to be the case in India, which continues to have a serious problem with female infanticide, especially among the rural poor. As Delhi’s government is discovering, the best way to address this problem is not through education, but rather a thoughtfully structured series of bribes:

Currently, the Delhi Government’s Ladli scheme to counter the bias against the girl child seems to have borne fruit, with the latest data showing that 19,000 more girls were born in 2008 than in the previous year. The sex ratio apparently is 1,004 girls for 1000 boys. The number of female babies exceeding males in Delhi is unprecedented in recent years…

Some officials credit it to the financial incentives offered under the Ladli scheme. These, briefly, are that the Government deposits a sum of Rs 5,000-6,000 for every baby girl, born to a family with an annual income below Rs 100,000. Subsequently, in a bid to ensure that the child goes to school, the Government deposits Rs 5,000 at the time of admission, and when the girl enters Class I, VI, IX, X and XII. These sums mature in a fixed deposit till the beneficiary turns 18. She can then claim the amount.

We’d be interested to see the calculus on how a more balanced gender ratio affects GDP. Certainly no good can come of a society in which, as the article notes, some villages have only a dozen girls for every 250 boys—a situation which leads to skewed marriage markets, not to mention a lot of psychological distress for lonely male hearts.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Captured Shadow

    Maybe you can pay people to do the right thing for the wrong reason. I wonder how much I would have to get paid to actually brush and floss after every meal?
    That 250:12 ratio sounds as bad as some of my college engineering classes.
    Congratulations on reaching 500 and I hope you keep up the pace.

  • Bob Webber

    Perhaps the villages with 250:12 boy:girl ratios could make lemonade out of their mismatched lemons by enthusiastically encouraging the formation of kabaddi teams.

    Not only would the players be able to satisfy their basic human need for touch, but kabaddi could become the tool for the elimination of surplus suitors. Permitting the use of the flying kenchi would form one half of the scissors of sexual selection, and a newly allowed move of responding to the kenchi with a hard blow of the fist or elbow to the kotai would complete the pair.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Bob Webber: I don’t use the word “genius” very often. But I can think of no other adjective to describe your proposal.

    The best part, of course, is that the impoverished village could sell tickets to the “Thunderdome”-style sporting spectacle, thereby pulling in desperately needed revenue. It’smostly a win-win, except for those who end up on the wrong side of a flying kenchi. For those unfortunate fellows, alas, this plan is a definite loss.

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