Government has been counting India’s poor all wrong—it is ad hoc, arbitrary

According to development policy analyst Sanjay Kaul in his new book, 'An alternative development agenda for India', redesigning and restructuring the country’s priorities rest on two fundamental planks. First, a robust and clear understanding of the neediest households; second, a fuller understanding of government institutions and implementation structures. To understand the first factor, i.e., the poorest households, Kaul points to co-founders and co-directors of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee's observations that the poor do not always display 'rational' behaviour and that they ‘lack critical pieces of information and have some inaccurate deep-rooted biases and beliefs', which mean they end up making faulty decisions. As such, Kaul highlights Esther and Abhijit's suggestion that programmes for low-income families need to be more ‘fault-tolerant', in a radical re-conceptualisation of poverty policy.

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