By IBON Features
MANILA — The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is seeking a Php45-billion budget in 2013 to support more beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.
The CCTs, which take up the largest part of government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program (4Ps), will peak in 2013 and is reportedly accommodating 700,000 more households to its current 3 million household beneficiaries.
International agencies World Bank and Asian Development bank (ADB) lauded the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, saying that the multibillion-dollar program has provided “social protection” amid the slow “trickling down” of growth. The World Bank has even cited the Philippines as a model in providing so-called safety net against today’s global economic problems.
Both the World Bank and ADB provided huge loans for the CCT program, which the Philippines will repay at an estimated US$1.007 billion including projected interest payments.
Aside from resulting in a heavier debt burden for Filipinos, the CCT program is criticized as an essentially dole-out program that brings insignificant impact on real poverty alleviation in the country. The Aquino government has also vastly expanded the program without the benefit of comprehensive studies on its effectiveness.
Below are a few anecdotal evidence that, although illustrative and rich, does not replace a comprehensive assessment that a program of this size requires.
In Barangay Tambis, Barobo in Surigao del Sur, children ages 5 and up know all about gold-panning and earn a living from it. Among them is 13-year-old Ryan (not his real name), who is one of three beneficiaries of the CCT program in the family. Even if he qualifies as a CCT recipient, he decided to stop going to school last year to instead pan gold full-time and help augment their family’s income.
Ryan explains that the educational cash grant does little to help augment the family’s expenses. “CCT beneficiaries like me are expected to make contributions to the school,” he says. “This includes paying a monthly contribution for the salary of their teacher.” He adds that most of the children in Tambis prefer to pan gold rather than go to school to help their families get by.
Barangay Tambis is also home to a mother who died while waiting outside a Land Bank of the Philippines outlet to avail her cash grant. She suffered a heart attack due to the heat.
These stories and give us a picture that is different from how government describes the positive impact of the CCT program on beneficiaries.
After almost two years of CCT implementation under the Aquino administration, the capacity of the DSWD to monitor its implementation and troubleshoot corruption tendencies remain in question. For example, Commission on Audit (CoA) reports double entries in hundreds of payrolls and the accumulation of idle funds in the Land Bank of the Philippines amounting to Php19.5 million for over-the-counter payments and Php516,300 for cash card payments. Cash grants totalling Php367.7 million were released to 60,433 sampled beneficiaries even if they did not comply with the program’s conditions.
Initial field reports by IBON also noted incidents wherein program implementers threatened some beneficiaries of being delisted especially if they put forward grievances. Some DSWD personnel reportedly advised these beneficiaries to stop availing their cash transfers if they are not satisfied with the implementation.
In CARAGA, some beneficiaries of Mamanwa tribe said that they were forced to dance before receiving their cash grants. Meanwhile, some beneficiaries spend between Php10 up to Php1,900 to comply with the requirements ranging from documents to T-shirts and IDs; food during meetings with the DSWD; transportation and updating records.
A Mamanwa leader also noticed that beneficiaries who were not in their homes during DSWD visits were automatically delisted. Despite their compliance with the CCT conditions, these beneficiaries reported that they are still made to clean up barangay halls, schools, and dikes, among others. Others reported that they either do not get the correct amount of cash grants or they receive these irregularly. Implementers are also quick to cut the amount if the beneficiaries miss even one activity.
The above accounts are only some of evidence that illustrates and validates the inefficiency and weakness of the CCT program. Other field reports show a trend that aside from being prone to corruption and questionable transfers, the CCT is not being implemented well because of the basic lack of health and education facilities. The CCT is also burdensome to beneficiaries as they will have to shell out considerable amount to comply with the requirements. Moreover, it has reinforced the patronage and dole-out mentality and is demeaning to recipients who have to line up for long hours just to get temporary cash relief.
In the end, outside various administrative problems, the CCT remains an unsustainable and artificial trickle-down mechanism that brings insignificant impact on real poverty eradication in the country, especially since the program is being implemented without complementary economic policies to create jobs and genuinely address poverty, such as land distribution, support for agriculture and building domestic industry.
IBON Foundation, Inc. is an independent development institution established in 1978 that provides research, education, publications, information work and advocacy support on socioeconomic issues.