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From the government’s perspective, there are a few pros to in-kind transfers, but there are also some fairly important drawbacks.
One of the major good points to in-kind transfers is that they are more certain to be used for the purpose for which they are meant. If we are talking about welfare-type programs, giving poor people food (or even food stamps) makes it much more likely that they will use the aid in the way it was intended. By contrast, a cash payment could be used in ways that would not seem to advance the government’s goal of getting people out of poverty. In addition, in-kind transfers can be used to help bolster parts of the economy. For example, the government can help farmers by buying food from them to be distributed as in-kind transfers.
The major negatives about in-kind transfers from the government’s point of view are the extra costs that go along with such transfers. If we are talking about food transfers, these can be very costly to the government. There needs to be a whole bureaucracy that decides what to buy, at what price, and from whom. There are costs involved in packaging the food, distributing it around the country, and storing it until needed. Workers need to be physically present to give the food to the recipients. None of these sorts of transactional costs are present with cash transfers.
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