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The relative distribution of the benefits of a subsidy may be studied with respect to different classes or groups of beneficiaries such as consumers and producers, as also between different classes of consumers and producers.

  • In case of food subsidy, PDS suffers from considerable leakage and apart from a low coverage of poor; the magnitude of benefit derived by the poor is very small.
  • In case of electricity, the subsidy rates have been rising for both agriculture and domestic sectors because the unit cost has been rising faster than the relevant tariff-rate. Also, there is considerable variation in the level of per capita electricity subsidy indicates that, in the richer States, the per capita subsidy is substantially higher as compared to that in the poorer States.
  • In case of public irrigation, water has a very high marginal productivity when used in conjunction with HYV of seeds, chemical fertilisers, power and other related inputs. It is the richer farmers who may derive relatively larger benefits because of their capacity to use these allied inputs.
  • Subsidies to elementary education form about half of the total subsidies on general education. However, this is not true for all individual States: the share of elementary education is lowest in the high income States and the highest in the low income States (Goa, Punjab and West Bengal actually give higher subsidies to secondary education than primary education).A negative correlation between the level of per capita income and the share of subsidies to elementary education is thus discernible. Most subsidies to higher education accrue predominantly to the better-off sections of society as they have an overwhelming advantage in competing out prospective candidates from the poorer sections in getting admission to courses that are characterised by scarcity of seats.
  • For subsidies of health, the greater emphasis on curative health care expenditure often reflects a bias towards the better-off people whereas preventive health care expenditure with much larger externalities would clearly be of greater help to the economically weaker sections of the society.

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