Decentralized Beneficiary Targeting in Large-Scale Development Programs: Insights from the Malawi Farm Input Subsidy Program
36 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016 Last revised: 2 Jun 2020
Date Written: November 1, 2013
This paper contributes to the long-standing debate on the merits of decentralized beneficiary targeting in the administration of development programs, focusing on the large-scale Malawi Farm Input Subsidy Program. Nationally-representative household survey data are used to systematically analyze the decentralized targeting performance of the program during the 2009-2010 agricultural season. The analysis begins with a standard targeting assessment based on the rates of program participation and the benefit amounts among the eligible and non-eligible populations, and provides decompositions of the national targeting performance into the inter-district, intra-district inter-community, and intra-district intra-community components. This approach identifies the relative contributions of targeting at each level. The results show that the Farm Input Subsidy Program is not poverty targeted and that the national government, districts, and communities are nearly uniform in their failure to target the poor, with any minimal targeting (or mis-targeting) overwhelmingly materializing at the community level. The findings are robust to the choice of the eligibility indicator and the decomposition method. The multivariate analysis of household program participation reinforces these results and reveals that the relatively well-off, rather than the poor or the wealthiest, and the locally well-connected have a higher likelihood of program participation and, on average, receive a greater number of input coupons. Since a key program objective is to increase food security and income among resource-poor farmers, the lack of targeting is a concern and should underlie considerations of alternative targeting approaches that, in part or completely, rely on proxy means tests at the local level.
Keywords: Inequality, Food Security, Nutrition, De Facto Governments, Democratic Government, Public Sector Administrative & Civil Service Reform, Public Sector Administrative and Civil Service Reform, Services & Transfers to Poor, Disability, Economic Assistance, Access of Poor to Social Services
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