Payments and Governance Research Program

The Payments and Governance Research Program, hosted by J-PAL South Asia and led by professors Karthik Muralidharan, Paul Niehaus, Sandip Sukhtankar, and Jeff Weaver, is working with the Government of India on a series of randomized evaluations to evaluate the impact of transitioning welfare programs towards secure platforms and direct income transfers.

About the Program | Team | Completed and Ongoing Evaluations | In the News

India is in the midst of an ambitious attempt to transform the structure and design of its welfare state using universal bank accounts (Jan Dhan), biometric authentication (Aadhaar), and mobile phones (taken together, referred to as the “JAM” solution). Working with state governments and departments, the Payments and Governance Research Program aims to support this transformation on two fronts:  

  • Implement existing programs better by studying the impact of JAM infrastructure on program delivery and beneficiary experience
  • Restructure programs through direct transfers in lieu of distortionary subsidies by evaluating cash transfer pilots in social programs  

The Payments and Governance Research Program was established because of the sustained interest and track record of the lead researchers in conducting research on policies to reduce corruption and improve service delivery in developing countries (with a focus on India).  The exemplar for the kind of studies envisaged under this research program is the evaluation of Andhra Pradesh’s Smartcard program. Results from the evaluation, which revealed that Smartcards had reduced corruption and improved beneficiary experience, helped the Government of Andhra Pradesh scale-up the program across the state and have since informed national policy. 

The Andhra Pradesh study highlights the policy value of large-scale evaluations of social programs. The Payments and Governance Research Program will build on this to conduct similarly policy-relevant evaluations and contribute directly to policy formulation while creating a global best-practice for evidence-based policymaking.