By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
The urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap dismissed the recent report the World Bank (WB) released jointly with the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid) on the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, formally known as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps.
Malacang said the WB-AusAID report “validates what they have been saying all along—that the 4Ps is an investment in the people.”
In the report labelled Social Protection Note 3 “Welfare and Distributional Impacts of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program,” the WB and AusAid said the CCT scheme will raise annual income of beneficiaries and at the same time reduce poverty levels. It said the CCT could increase annual incomes of beneficiaries by 12.6 percent and reduce poverty incidence by as much as 2.6 percentage points.
Quoting its own report, the WB said it is currently conducting an in-depth evaluation on the Aquino administration’s CCT scheme. It said it used simulations using the database of the National Household Targeting System, and that these same simulations could be utilized to illustrate the potential impact on poverty in program areas.
In the report, it was stated that on the average, pre-CCT annual per capita incomes of the beneficiaries is equal to some P9,205 ( $219) which is below the national poverty line of P16,841 ( $401) in 2009.
“In program areas, the poorest areas of the country where CCT is implemented, Pantawid Pamilya can reduce poverty incidence by 2.6 percentage points and inequality by 6.6 percent,” the WB said.
It also said the CCT’s beneficiary households also have numerous family members, with those from the poorest income groups having the largest families.
Kadamay, for its part said the WB’s figures do not reflect reality and are in fact, insignificant when considered within the context of practical problems of millions of poverty-stricken families.
“The Aquino administration is trying to convince the people that these sugarcoated figures justify the corruption-prone dole-out program. Even as the government uses the WB-AusAid report to bolster its empty claims that the CCT scheme is a weapon against poverty, the truth is dole-out programs like it will never have any lasting and significant effect in addressing the widespread joblessness, hunger and poverty,” Kadamay’s secretary general Gloria Arellano said.
Kadamay held a picket in front of the House of Representatives as congress began deliberations on the budget of the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) for 2012.
According to reports, the DSWD is among the top gainers in the 2012 budget. From its current budget of P34.3 billion ( $809.5million), the DSWD is set to receive a P53.6 billion ( $1.285 billion) in 2012.
“Congress should re-align the budget being proposed for the CCT to government efforts for job creation and for the provision of basic services,” she said.
“The DSWD and the Aquino administration asserts that the monthly cash grant of P500 -P1,400 ($12 to $ 33) is a big help to impoverished Filipinos; but what is all of this but a dole-out program? They’re giving out glorified alms to Filipinos who are, in turn, being reduced to being mendicants,” Arellano said.
Demeaning to the poor
Urban poor community residents are also being demeaned because of the CCT, Arellano insisted. She said the requirements for Filipinos to qualify as beneficiaries are “insulting.”
The DSWD gives a maximum of P1, 400 ($33) cash incentives to the poorest Filipino families for as long as families can give assurance that their children will attend 80 percent of all school days. It also requires mothers to take regular monthly check-ups.
“By imposing such requirements, it’s as if the government is assuming that poor Filipinos would rather not send send their children to school and not take take regular health check-up unless there are cash incentives at hand. We’re not dumb like how the government seems to believe us to be. We want our children to get an education and gain access to all services necessary for a good, healthy and normal childhood. With or without the CCT we have been wanting all these things but because of how corrupt the economic and political system in this country is, we have been denied them,” Arellano said.
“Even if the government’s intention was true, the P300 ($7.14) allotted for each child as a means to encourage them to stay in school are far from being enough. Their parents remain jobless or trapped in employment that does not pay living wages. The CCT is not by any stretch of the imagination an effective weapon to fight poverty,” she said.
Finally, Arellano said the CCT’s positive impact on beneficiaries is only short-term, and the decrease in poverty incidence will only be artificial and temporary.
“Why spend billions of pesos of taxpayers’ money on a bogus anti-poverty program? By promoting the CCT scheme, the government is proving its inability and direct failure to create genuine and sustainable employment for Filipinos. Instead of using billions of government funds on the CCT, the government should work on the continually rising job figures and implement a real agrarian reform program. People need steady jobs, steady sources of income, not dole-outs,” she said.
“Aquino’s insistence on continuing the implementation of the CCT will not lead to development or progress for Filipinos. Because of the government’s twisted fiscal program and the number of poor Filipinos will only continue to rise, and Aquino’s failure as a president will be more exposed.”
Increased DSWD budget for CCT slammed
Earlier, Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño expressed concern over the government’s move to increase the DSWD’s budget. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) raised the call for the increase. He said the CCT scheme was already suspicious because its implementation has not been completely transparent.
Casiño said the implementation of the program did not undergo evaluation before the government agencies poured in more government funds into CCT, which denied augmentation of funds to other government projects for education and health in the 2011 General Appropriations Act.
According to Casiño, of the CCT’s 2.3 million target beneficiaries, only 1.9 million are registered and that the actual number of those who have received the funds are between 1.4 million to 1.5 million.
Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano’s critique of the CCT is even more direct.
“As far as we are concerned, the CCT scheme is not a program for poverty alleviation, not even a palliative or stop-gap to the severe poverty and hunger endured by millions of Filipinos. These so-called anti-poverty schemes will in fact intensify poverty and the poor people’s dependence to dole-outs,” he said.
The activist lawmaker said the Aquino government is using the CCT scheme to cover up its inefficiency in addressing the people’s demands for economic reforms.
“The CCT does not address the basic problem of landlessness and social injustice that are among the major causes of poverty and economic vulnerability in the country.”
In the meantime, independent think-tank Ibon Foundation said the Aquino administration still does not have any major studies on the CCT’s impact. It said the huge budget increase is unjustifiable in the absence of conclusive studies about program implementation and impact.
It said the government has been completely lacking in comprehensive studies on the CCT after four years and after some P44.4 billion (US$1.04 billion) worth of implementation (by Ibon estimates) by the end of 2011.
Ibon also estimated that as it is currently designed, the program will cost some P250 billion ($5.95 billion) over a decade. According to the group, the more money the government spends on the program’s uncontrollable expansion, the harder it will be to look at the program objectively. A four-fold budget increase in the program from P10 billion ($ 238 million) in 2010 to P39.5 billion ($952 million) in 2012 is reckless in the absence of a meaningful assessment on how well this money is being spent or indeed better spent elsewhere. The country, Ibon said, has considerable backlogs in classrooms, teachers, desks, public hospitals and health workers, and rural infrastructure.