November 21, 2017, 5:15 am
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Anti-poverty program needs refinements

THE AQUINO administration declared the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), a conditional cash transfer (CCT) scheme that provides direct financial support to the country’s poorest families, as its key anti-poverty program at the start of its term.

The 4Ps, which is administered by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), provides financial support to the poorest households, for health and educational concerns.

According to the DSWD’s accomplishment data, the expansion of the 4Ps, which was meant to cover more families and link 4Ps to other social protection programs such as health and scholarships, has led to the coverage of 4.48 million households in 2014.

This is more than four times the one million households covered in 2010.

However, despite the successful implementation of the CCT, poverty incidence among Filipino individuals in the first half of 2014 rose to 25.8 percent and among Filipino families to 20 percent.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority’s Annual Poverty Indicators Survey showed that poverty incidence among Filipino individuals rose by 1.2 percentage points in the first semester of 2014 from the 24.6 percent registered in the first half of 2013. 

Also, among Filipino families, poverty incidence increased by 1.1 percentage points in the first semester of 2014 from 18.8 percent in the same period in 2013.

The National Economic and Development Authority earlier said that the rapid rise in food prices, particularly of rice, and the lingering effects of Typhoon Yolanda in the first half of 2014 elevated poverty incidence among Filipino individuals.

During the first semester of 2014, a family of five needed at least P6, 125 on the average every month to meet the family’s basic food needs and at least P8,778 on the average every month to meet both basic food and non-food needs.

The government aimed to reduce the poverty rate by around two percentage points every year to meet the Millennium Development Goal of cutting the poverty figure into half by 2015.

The poverty incidence should be lowered to 16.6 percent by 2015, half the 33.1 percent poverty figure in 1991.

The government has yet to release the poverty figures for 2015.

“Considering that the number of poor families increased from 18.8 percent in 2013 to 20 percent in 2014 despite the 4Ps implementation, government efforts should focus on reaching more of the poor, providing them with greater safety nets, and continuously linking 4Ps beneficiaries to other programs that can bring them to self-sufficiency,” the Department of Budget and Management said in its published People’s Proposed Budget for 2016.

Under the program, the families can qualify for a maximum monthly support of P1,400. P500 per month will be allocated for meeting health conditions, while P300 per child per month will be allocated for educational conditions.
A maximum of three children per family can avail of the cash transfer.

The families availing of the program must meet a number of conditions in order to receive the cash transfers. Pregnant women must receive pre-natal and post-natal care and parents must attend Family Development Sessions. 

Children under five years old must also receive regular preventive health checkups and vaccinations, while children in elementary school must receive deworming treatment at least twice a year.

Children must be enrolled in school, and have an attendance rate of at least 85 percent.

The government’s Socioeconomic Report 2014 also showed that the Modified CCT registered low accomplishment rates due in part to the transition of eligible MCCT beneficiaries, particularly the challenges of the ongoing registration of homeless street families and indigenous people in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas.

The MCCT covers 152,680 households, and these are the homeless and street families and indigenous people households in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas who are not covered by the regular conditional cash transfer program.

A publication released by the Asian Development Bank last year also said that the value of the cash grants under the Aquino administration’s CCT program has eroded significantly in real terms, and has declined as a share of poor households’ average income.

According to the ADB Social Protection Brief titled, The Social Protection Support Project in the Philippines, policy and operational challenges in the CCT program include adjusting the benefit levels to account for inflation, and ensuring sufficient and high quality education and health services.

The report however said that while there has been an increase in the national poverty incidence recently, it is not an indicator that the CCT is not working.

“The poverty incidence may have been worse without the CCTs given the impact of catastrophic natural disasters and food price inflation in 2013,” the publication said.

“The reduction of poverty and inequality are long-term impacts that can only be expected when healthier and more educated Pantawid children grow up to join the work force and get better jobs. The grant alone is not enough
to bring many families over the poverty line, though it does reduce the income gap,” it added.

In relation to this, the World Bank earlier said that the 4Ps has reduced national poverty incidence and food poverty incidence in the Philippines by up to 1.4 percentage points.

Ruslan Yemtsov, World Bank Lead Technical Expert on Social Safety Nets, previously said the Philippines’ poverty incidence could have been worse without the conditional cash transfer program.

Yemtsov said that poverty among beneficiaries alone diminishes by up to 6 to 7 percentage points, equivalent to 1.3 million Filipinos.

“The Philippines 4Ps has expanded rapidly. It has reached this level at a very fast pace, that no other country has achieved,” Yemtsov said.

“The poor and vulnerable in the Philippines benefit from what is today one of the largest and best-targeted social safety net programs in the world,” he added.

Yemtsov said that 82 percent of the benefits of the Philippines’ CCT program goes to the bottom 40 percent of the Philippine population comprising the country’s poor households, as well as those that are highly vulnerable to poverty.  

“Poverty in the Philippines is a dynamic phenomenon and many households move in and out of poverty during the year due to factors like calamities, droughts, or the advent of the lean seasons,” Yemtsov said.

For this year, the DBM said that the regular CCT will have a budget of P59.38 billion to support 4.4 million poor households.

Of this budget, about P5.2 billion will support the education of 1.15 million beneficiaries aged 15 to 18 years old.

The DBM further said that on top of the P59.38 billion, the modified CCT will receive a budget of P3.29 billion to help 218,377 households classified as itinerants, homeless street families, indigenous people, and families in need of special protection by providing education and healthcare grants, as well as assistance packages such as cash-for-work.
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