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Water, Electricity, and the Poor : Who Benefits from Utility Subsidies?


  • Kristin Komives
  • Vivien Foster
  • Jonathan Halpern
  • Quentin Wodon


While consumer utility subsidies are widespread in both the water and electricity sectors, their effectiveness in reaching and distributing resources to the poor is the subject of much debate. This publication brings together empirical evidence on subsidy performance across a wide range of countries. It documents the prevalence of consumer subsidies, provides a typology of the many variants found in the developing world, and presents a number of indicators useful in assessing the degree to which such subsidies benefit the poor, focusing on three key concepts: beneficiary incidence, benefit incidence, and materiality. The findings on subsidy performance will be useful to policy makers, utility regulators, and sector practitioners who are contemplating introducing, eliminating, or modifying utility subsidies, and to those who view consumer utility subsidies as a social protection instrument.

Suggested Citation

  • Kristin Komives & Vivien Foster & Jonathan Halpern & Quentin Wodon, 2005. "Water, Electricity, and the Poor : Who Benefits from Utility Subsidies?," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6361, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbpubs:6361

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. repec:dau:papers:123456789/10091 is not listed on IDEAS
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    6. Morrisson, Christian, 2000. "Historical perspectives on income distribution: The case of Europe," Handbook of Income Distribution,in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 217-260 Elsevier.
    7. Minami, Ryoshin, 1998. "Economic Development and Income Distribution in Japan: An Assessment of the Kuznets Hypothesis," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 39-58, January.
    8. Fields, Gary S & Yoo, Gyeongjoon, 2000. "Falling Labor Income Inequality in Korea's Economic Growth: Patterns and Underlying Causes," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 46(2), pages 139-159, June.
    9. World Bank, 2007. "World Development Indicators 2007," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 8150.
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