Recent years have seen a perceptible increase in interest on social safety nets in developing countries. The emergence of such a policy focus has been underscored by the growing realization of the significance of risk and vulnerability in defining the poverty condition and the concomitant need to protect the poor from such risks and vulnerability. During the 1980s, the spurt in interest in social safety nets stemmed from the debt crisis in Latin America and the need to undertake painful structural adjustment programme to cope with often debilitating macro-economic crisis. There was a general realization during this period that, though economic restructuring associated with adjustment could be perfectly consistent with policies to achieve sustainable long-term development, in the short run the poor can be at considerable risk during the process of restructuring. During the 1990s, the East Asian financial crisis provided another spurt to interest in safety net programs as a means of limiting the impact of such adverse macro-economic turns on the lives of the poor. Most recently, the global recession of 2007-08 has seen renewed concerns on risks faced by the poor and middle classes due to prolonged economic downturns.
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