Helping the poor — without conditions

Dec 25, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Coverage of an assistance plan that "would give poor families in rural Kenya $1,000 over the course of 10 months, and let them do whatever they wanted with the money." The idea here is that if the money is donated without strings attached, people would spend it on what they needed or wanted most. The hard part is for the donors to not make judgments about that. In practice, the program was generally effective. The major problems were theft of the donations by village elders, and jealousy on the part of others in the community. And, of course, "unconditional cash transfers to individuals do little to address the structural factors responsible for poverty, such as government corruption, gender discrimination, and the lack of quality jobs, schools, and health care."

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