This paper argues that economic reform has led to fundamental challenges to the provision of social welfare. Combined with key institutional changes, the reduction in the state’s financial capacity has dramatically curtailed its role as a direct service provider. While there is greater choice for those who can afford it, services have collapsed for the rural poor while migrants are shut out from existing services. This requires not only a re-think of the role of the state but also the development of a better market for certain services (e.g. housing and pension management) and an increased operational space for alternate service providers such as NGOs and community-based organizations.