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Appropriation vs Grant vs Subvention vs Subsidy

Appropriation, grant, subvention and subsidy all mean money or property given or set apart by an authorized body for a predetermined use by others.

Appropriation is the comprehensive term used in government, business, or an institution controlling large sums of money for the amount formally and officially allotted to any one of its departments, projects, services, or beneficiaries in advance of the expenditure of that money.

  • every department must keep within its appropriation
  • since the bill just signed carries no appropriation for the new bridge, it is obvious that construction will not begin this year

Grant usually applies to a gift made by a government or by a corporation (as an educational or charitable foundation) to a beneficiary on the condition that certain terms be accepted or certain engagements fulfilled. The beneficiary may be a specific institution, a corporation, or even an individual; the gift may be a sum of money, but when the government is the benefactor, it is often a tract of land or a valuable franchise.

  • grants of land from the federal government were made to various railroads building new lines and to various colleges and universities providing agricultural and industrial courses in the mid-nineteenth century
  • foundations that make grants to institutions engaged in health and medical research

Subvention is more re- stricted than grant since it always implies pecuniary aid especially to a person or institution in straits; it more often applies to a grant-in-aid to an artistic, literary, or scientific undertaking than a commercial one.

  • opera in many places is possible only because of a subvention

Subsidy applies to a grant made to an individual or a company to enable him (or it) to carry on some work regarded as advantageous to the public but not for one reason or another self-supporting. Subvention is often preferred when the grant is made by an educational or charitable foundation or similar agency; subsidy, when it is made by the government.

  • the Carnegie Corporation makes subventions to libraries and educational institutions
  • the British government provides subsidies for mail-carrying vessels