Protection from a worse evil
There was once jungle, where a tiger ruled, that preyed indiscriminately on the smaller animals. Then walked in a man, armed with a rifle and offered a deal to the smaller animals – give me one rabbit a day and I will ensure that the tiger stays out of the jungle. After a while, the tiger starves to death. The man gets his rabbits, buys many more rifles and makes similar deals in many more jungles around. After some more time, tigers figure out that there is only one man with a rifle and probably, he can be caught napping and the slowly start poaching on the corners. Occasionally, the tiger let an animal go, just to establish his magnanimity. The small animals now have no option but to keep providing the rabbit, as well as run the risk of being preyed on by the tiger. The tiger and the man played their parts well – and live happily ever after. Occasionally they fight amongst themselves, but mostly, they recognise that their best interests lie in avoiding each other to the extent possible…
The social business
The argument of the financially-sustainable development intervention is quite persuasive – an entrepreneur designs an intervention to provide a service (either essential, existential or just plain tempting) to the poor; the user-charges generate not only revenue, but also surplus – sufficient for the enterprise to grow and spread further. Over time, the enterprise grows bigger, increasing its coverage, convincing itself that the service it was offering was indeed the best possible – starting as a conviction, but soon growing into a justification for its own existence. If the business flourishes, more people benefit, they argue. The user-charges must continue to be high so that there continues to be surplus so that more people can be covered. Very rarely do the costs come down, since the surplus goes into servicing newer clients, and not into improving services to existing ones.