[PHOTO - CCT HOPEFULS. Residents of a barangay in Metro Manila search for their names on the latest shortlist of beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program posted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Photo by Che de los Reyes.]

MANILA, AUGUST 22, 2011 (STAR) By Aurea Calica - Malacañang welcomed yesterday the joint report of the World Bank (WB) and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) that the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program for indigent families can raise their annual incomes by 12.6 percent, thus reducing poverty incidence by 6.2 percent.

In a statement, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the report reaffirms the belief of the administration that the program is a “solid foundation” for improving the quality of life of impoverished Filipinos.

The report, which was released on Friday, said the program can reduce overall food poverty in areas covered by 5.5 percent.

The CCT program, also known as the “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program,” provides cash grants to indigent families on condition that they send their children to school, have infants immunized from diseases, and that mothers visit community health centers.

“And while the increase in household incomes is indeed an intended objective of the program, the government’s overall social program involves much more in ensuring that beneficiaries remain healthy, educated, and productive, thus giving them the ability to raise their lot in life,” Lacierda said.

The CCT program is patterned after the cash transfer program in Brazil.

“Studies of various CCT programs worldwide have shown how such transfers are indeed directed toward prioritizing food on the table. If this is so, results suggest that the Pantawid Pamilya (program) can reduce food poverty among household beneficiaries by 13.3 percentage points. Consequently, it can reduce overall food poverty in program areas by 13.3 percentage points,” Lacierda said. He said the program seeks to produce skilled and educated citizens.

“This is in fact only one aspect of a wide-ranging strategy toward inclusive growth: the government is continuously working toward ensuring a level playing field that will encourage investors and generate jobs,” he said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which manages the program, said the beneficiaries who graduate from the program will also be given cash capital to start a business.

In an interview during the CCT’s first convergence caravan held in Mandaluyong City yesterday, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said the first set of beneficiaries will graduate from the program in 2013. These are indigent families covered by the program since 2008.

Soliman said her department is conducting a resurvey in 14 cities in the National Capital Region (NCR), starting in Mandaluyong, to eliminate unqualified recipients from the list of beneficiaries.

She said 400 families of the 150,000 recently removed from the DSWD list of covered families admitted they were not qualified to be beneficiaries of the CCT program.

Mandaluyong Mayor Benhur Abalos said the city government will provide one job per family to support the CCT program.

He said the local government has partnered with various companies that can provide carpentry, welding, and automotive jobs. Four hundred people have so far been provided jobs.

The city will also create a funeral parlor for the burial needs of city residents.

Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II told the city’s beneficiaries that an amount of P100,000 may be provided for each group to enable them to start their own businesses.

“(An) exit plan has to be prepared for all of you. Start your own business. So that when you graduate from this program, the CCT will be extended to other families who are also in need like you,” he said.

Beneficiaries testify

Melanie Encabo, a resident of Welfareville, Barangay Addition Hills in Mandaluyong has been a beneficiary of the CCT program since last year. She said the P1,400 cash grant she has been receiving each month from the government is a big help to her family.

“Now, I can buy the food and school needs of our children,” she said.

Another beneficiary, Marilyn Soria, said aside from being able to buy the needs of her children in her school she can also buy vitamins for them.

“My husband is working on and off as a mason. We hope that this program will continue,” Soria said.

A teary-eyed Colleen Nubia, a Grade 6 student, said she and her siblings are now going to school with allowance.

“We are very thankful to President Noynoy Aquino. We hope that he will continue this program,” she said.

Ederlyn Padias, principal of the Jose Fabella Memorial School in Welfareville, said there has been a drastic increase in enrolment because of the CCT program.

“The enrolment of pupils in our school increased from 700 last year to 900 this year. This is an indication that the recipients of the conditional cash transfer program are now going to school,” Padias said.

At present, there are 1,400 CCT beneficiaries in Mandaluyong. - With Jose Rodel Clapano, Evelyn Macairan


PNoy gov't doles out P4-B, seeks P2-B more ABS-CBN – Tue, Jun 14, 2011

[PHOTO - President Aquino witnesses the signing of the Oath of Commitment by the two millionth beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program]

MANILA, Philippines - The Aquino government has already spent P4.127 billion of the P17.13-billion Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) budget allotted for 2011.

Despite this, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Dinky Soliman faced the Senate finance oversight committee on Tuesday afternoon and said it still needs an additional P2 billion to cover over 2 million households for its Pantawid Pamilya program.

Senate Finance committee chair Franklin Drilon did not commit to supporting her request for additional funds, pending a certification from the Department of Budget and Management that there are enough funds.

As of May 31, the DSWD had already released P4.127 billion to 1.6 million households.

Soliman said the DSWD is short of funds because it started giving away cash before the programmed implementation in June.

She said the program has a high accomplishment rate in terms of health visits, education, and family development sessions, which are pre-conditions for the release of funds to beneficiaries.

Soliman also told the committee that it has an assessment mechanism, via a survey commissioned to see the effectiveness of the program.

The survey will be done by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) toward the latter part of 2011.

Both Drilon and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said they were satisfied with the explanation of Soliman.

Under the government's CCT program, the poorest of the poor gets P300 for each child (no more than 3 children and not older than 14 years old), while the mother or parent gets P500 every month on the condition that the children attend at least 85% of their school days, and submit to the government's health programs like vaccination.


Hungry families in Phl hit 3.4 million Tuesday, January 11, 2011

HUNGRY Filipinos rose to 3.4 million in November last year from three million a quarter ago as the number of households that tagged themselves as poor barely changed, an independent pollster reported Tuesday.

In its last hunger survey for 2010, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said the 3.4 million households represent 18.1 percent of the respondents, which claimed they have experienced hunger in the last three months.

But the Palace stressed that hunger cases are expected to ease once the P21-billion conditional cash transfer program goes full swing.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda made the statement following the latest SWS survey, showing the increase in hunger incidence in the country.

Lacierda noted that the CCT program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has just kicked off and should be given more time to progress.

“Nag-uumpisa pa lang naman ang conditional cash transfer,” he said.

Quoting DSWD secretary Dinky Soliman, he said the master list of the CCT beneficiaries was already completed except for two municipalities.

He added since the budget for the program has been approved, the DSWD can work smoothly for the estimated 3.4 million beneficiaries.

Lacierda said they will ask the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) to verify if the result of SWS survey is seasonal.

The hunger incidence is a sharp contrast to the three million families (15.9 percent) recorded in September last year but way below the historic high of 24 percent or 4.4 million households posted in December 2009.

Both the highest and lowest (7.4 percent, March 2004) hunger incidence, meanwhile, were recorded during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

SWS also noted that almost 9.2 million families found themselves as poor or 49 percent of the respondents. The number, however, is deemed insignificant compared to the September 2010 data of 48 percent.

Around two in five households (36 percent), on the other hand, considered themselves as food poor, just two points down from the previous survey.

Explaining the rise in overall hunger, the SWS said the number of families experiencing moderate hunger (defined as those who experienced hunger “only once” or a “few times”) went up by two percentage points.

Families that suffered severe hunger — those who experienced hunger “often” or “always” stayed at 3.1 percent or equivalent to 588,000 households.

The survey also showed that hunger incidence increased across all areas except in the Visayas where it remained at 15.3 percent.

SWS reported a four-percent spike in Balance of Luzon to 18.3 percent, almost two points in Mindanao and only a point in Metro Manila, which is at 21.7 percent.

The survey firm further noted that moderate hunger rose in all areas while severe hunger is higher than the 12-year averages in the said areas.

Meantime, self-rated poverty slipped by nine points in Mindanao to end 2010 at 44 percent, followed by eight points in Visayas to 53 percent and by five points in Metro Manila to 44 percent.

An 11-point rise, however, is recorded in the Balance of Luzon to 51 percent.

In urban areas, self-rated poverty dropped by a point to 42 percent while the incidence did not move at 55 percent in rural communities.

The poll organization said self-rated food poverty declined 13 points in Metro Manila to 28 percent by 11 points in the Visayas to 39 percent and by two points in Mindanao to 34 percent. SWS recorded a six-point uptick in the Balance of Luzon.

The self-rated poverty threshold, or the monthly budget poor households say they need in order not to consider themselves poor in general, remained sluggish despite considerable inflation.

SWS said the findings only show that the poor families have been lowering their living standards or simply belt-tightening.

The survey, which was done from November 27 to 30, 2010, showed that the median poverty thresholds for poor households were P15,000 in Metro Manila, P9,000 in the rest of Luzon, P8,000 in the Visayas and P5,000 in Mindanao.

The median food-poverty threshold, on the other hand, registered a new high of P9,000 in Metro Manila, beating the previous record of P8,000. The pollster estimated it at P4,000 in the rest of Luzon and the Visayas and at P3,000 in Mindanao.

Uphill climb

Benjamin Diokno, an economist at the University of the Philippines, said the government should start the ball rolling on cutting down hunger and poverty incidence.

“Hunger incidence continues to persist. While the results are noisy, the overall trend is that hunger incidence has been on an upward trend since 2003. That’s an enormous challenge to any government,” he told Sun.Star.

The government earlier called the conditional cash transfer program as its main poverty reduction scheme.

Under the program initiated by Arroyo, cash grants to extremely poor households will be given to improve their health, nutrition and education particularly of children aged 0-14.

The beneficiaries, in return, must meet specific conditions such as regular medical check-ups and high attendance rates of school-age children before they can get the cash assistance.

From only four municipalities in Agusan del Sur and Misamis Occidental, the 4Ps has now served more than 900,000 families nationwide as President Benigno Aquino III wanted 2.3 million families to be covered this year.

Soliman earlier said the program would result to a nearly 10-percent reduction of the country’s poverty level from 33.6 percent in 2006 to 24.5 percent in 2016.

SWS said the latest survey was conducted using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults with error margins of three percent for national and six percent for area percentages.

It further said the survey questions about the family's poverty and food-poverty were directed to the household head. (Virgil Lopez/Jill Beltran/Sunnex)





Focus on the Global South
Tue, 2010-11-02

Conditional Cash Transfers or CCTs have become the subject of controversy recently, with a marathon debate on it breaking out over it during the budget deliberations at the House of Representatives.

The CCT program was introduced in 2008, during the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. During the recent budget hearings, however, Arroyo, now the representative of the Second District of Pampanga, opposed the expansion of the program planned by the new administration.

The idea behind CCT’s is that poor families are given a subsidy if they agree to certain conditions: keep their children in school, receive health care during and after pregnancy, and agree to have children immunized, subjected to periodic checkups, and monitored for growth. The aim is to “increase the productivity of the poor,” make children more competitive in the job market when they grow up, and thus “break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.”

CCTs in the Philippines

First launched in Mexico, Brazil, and Bangladesh over a decade ago, CCT programs had spread to about 23 developing countries by 2008. In Latin America alone, some 93 million people are said to be enrolled in CCT programs.

The program in the Philippines was initiated in 2008, during the food price crisis.

A poor family was given a P500 monthly cash grant for health and nutrition needs, with another P300 per child for educational expenses. Stipends were limited to three children, coming to a maximum subsidy of P1400 for each family per month

700,000 families were reached by the program over the last two years.

Now the new administration of President Benigno Aquino III plans to expand the program to cover 1.3 million more families with the help of a recent $400 million loan from the Asian Development Bank, a commitment that comes on top of an earlier $405 million loan by the World Bank in November 2009. The ADB and the World Bank are among the biggest backers of CCTs, with the Bank claiming that its technocrats played the key role in conceptualizing them.

Do CCTs Work?

What is the record of CCTs?

According to a number of studies, they seem to be working in terms of containing poverty. In Mexico, one exhaustive study of the Progresa-Oportunidades Program claims that it reduced the share of the population living in poverty by 16 per cent. Over 5.2 million households are enrolled in the program, which has been funded by the government, with support also coming from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

In Brazil, the CCT Program, known as Bolsa Familia, is massive, with some 12 million families participating in it. The flagship program of the Lula government addressing the needs of the poor, it is said to have played a central role in lifting 20 million Brazilians from absolute poverty and pushing 31 million into the middle class. According to one report in the Guardian, “One of the biggest successes has been the enormous advances made to the school enrolment program. This is largely thanks to Bolsa Familia (“Family Fund”), which pays poor families if their children attend school. This fund has pushed children off the street and into the school room, while also providing the poorest with a well-needed form of income support.”

Even the radical MST, the Landless Movement, has supported Bolsa, though it realizes this might have dampening effects on their members’ willingness to undertake land occupations.According to one MST leader quoted in the report of a Church-linked research center, “…Given the extreme poverty in Brazil and the large numbers of people going hungry, these clientelist policies are necessary…Necessary but not sufficient.”

Supporters of CCTs emphasize that reduction of gender inequality is one of the principal benefits of CCTs. According to a World Bank press release, “Women and marginalized groups in particular see benefits from CCTs, often stretching beyond the household. In Mexico, women reported increased self-confidence, awareness and control over family resources. Programs in Chile, Panama and the Dominican Republic have helped indigenous groups and the extreme poor obtain identity documents, which not only make it possible for them to enroll in CCT programs, but also provide access to other social programs, voting rights, and legal protection.”

CCTs: the Cons

What is my view of CCTs?

First of all, the ADB and the Bank’s approach to them is that they are the principal tool to reduce poverty.

Now, while they may be a useful complement to structural reform, they are not a substitute for it, and the latter is the agenda of the multilateral agencies, which are loath to address structural issues.

Second, CCTs have a palliative intent, that is, they seek to contain the social damage that is being created by the neoliberal macroeconomic policies pushed by the Bank and the ADB.

In this regard, I would say of CCTs what I wrote regarding microlending a few years ago: “Structural adjustment programs promoting trade liberalization, deregulation, and privatization have brought greater poverty and inequality to most parts of the developing world…Many of the same institutions that pushed and are continuing to push these failed macro programs, like the World Bank, are often the same institutions pushing microcredit programs. Viewed broadly, microcredit can be seen as a safety net for millions of people destabilized by the large-scale macro-failures engendered by structural adjustment.”

CCTs have the same thrust as microlending: damage control at the microeconomic level.

Let us be clear therefore: CCTs are about poverty containment rather than poverty reduction.

CCTs : the Pros

Does this then mean that there is no place for CCTs in the anti-poverty arsenal of a developing country like the Philippines?

Here is where I part ways with some of the more doctrinaire critics of conditional cash transfers. I would deploy them here for three big reasons.

First, poverty is so pervasive and the combination of runaway corruption and neoliberal policies under the nine-year reign of the previous administration led to so much increase in poverty that any tool to contain its further spread must be utilized.

I agree with the comment of the MST leader on the Bolsa Familia cited earlier: given the large and increasing numbers of people going hungry, CCTs have a critical role to play, though I would not go as far as saying they are “necessary.”

Second, under the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) covenant, the Philippines agreed to reduce its poverty rate by half, to 15 per cent of the population by 2015.This covenant may not be legally binding but it has now become morally binding

Thanks to Arroyo and neoliberal policies, we will probably not reach this target by 2015, but we are expected to at least show significant progress by the international community .CCTs can be useful in this enterprise.

Third, CCTs buy time for structural reforms to kick in. The key measures to reduce poverty are reversing trade liberalization, a moratorium on foreign debt payments, and effective agrarian reform.

Progressives need some time to win the battle to win approval for these policies in the administration coalition, and after that, we need more time before the poverty-reduction impacts of thesefar-reaching reforms kick in. Thus I would see CCTs as a stopgap measure, to keep millions above the water line until reforms show results.

The Critics’ Arguments

The opponents of CCT in the Philippines have attacked it on a number of grounds: that CCTs are a “doleout”; that the vast amounts of resources allocated to the program would open it up to corruption; and that the World Bank and ADB would subvert the program along neoliberal lines.

The doleout argument is based on a deliberate misunderstanding of the way the program works, which is its use of conditionalities, like keeping children in school to provide them with much needed skills, in return for providing cash support for families.

The CCTs as inducement-for-corruption charge has some validity, but it can be addressed, not by throwing out the baby with the bathwater, which is what Arroyo wants, but by the institutionalization of tight controls, which can be done, as proven by the experience of Bolsa in Brazil and Progresa in Mexico.

Under a corrupt regime like the Arroyo presidency, the vast sums of money involved would definitely create corruption.

While the Aquino administration, which ran on an anti-corruption, anti-poverty agenda, cannot promise a 100 per cent elimination of corruption, it will definitely substantially reduce it, and it will certainly make sure corruption does not infect its flagship program.

As for the ADB and the World Bank having their own agenda with CCTs, this is to be expected. But one does not run away from the devil. One outsmarts and outmaneuvers it. And the main way to control and minimize the influence of the Bank and the ADB is by firmly limiting their role to providing monetary assistance and keeping their hands off the design of the program and its implementation.

One of the ways to ensure design and implementation along lines that would reduce the potential for irregularities and foreign interference would be to set up a Special Oversight Committee of the CCT in Congress. Reps. Bernadette Herrera, Kaka Bagao, and I proposed the formation of such a committee during the House budget deliberations. Over 100 House members signed the resolution, and the House leadership has agreed to set up the proposed committee.

CCTs and the Movement for Social Protection

But even more important, the design and implementation of the program must involve the active participation of civil society and the grassroots urban and rural communities.

CCTs must be democratically implemented, not bureaucratically managed. This is the challenge that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) must take up, and we must hold its feet to the fire to ensure its compliance.

Indeed, as shown in Brazil, CCT’s can be an important weapon in empowering the poor. The could be, not a barrier, but a step forward in the effort to create a base for a movement for “transformative social protection,” one that sees the right to be free of poverty as a basic social right, the fulfillment of which must be the basic goal of economic and social policy.

Where the Critics are Coming from

But where are the critics of CCTs really coming from?

My sense is that the opponents of CCT may be categorized into the following:

- those who oppose it for partisan political gains, such as Arroyo, who is now critical of a program begun under her administration out of sheer opportunism;

- traditional politicians, who are worried that the CCT program will destroy the ties of patronage politics that serve as their main form of control over the urban and rural poor;

- the extreme left, who are afraid that the reform coalition now in government could use the program to create a mass base that would become relatively impermeable to their ultra-left politics

- the middle class, who are particularly susceptible to the charge that CCTs are a “doleout.”

Not being able to come in touch with the poor except at arms length, the middle class in most developing countries often fail to appreciate how closed the channels of social mobility are to the vast majority of the population.

The Philippine middle class is no different. They are unaware of the initial class advantages they possess that have allowed them to “make it” and often cannot see why the poor cannot also make it if they were able to make it. Only people who really do not understand the lives of the poor would make the criticism that the CCT would allegedly “make men lazy because they know their wives would have a monthly dole from government."

Countering GMA’s Coalition against the Poor

The truth is that for poor households, there is never enough, and men and women work at multiple jobs to make ends meet. Middle class Filipinos ought to keep their subconscious class biases in check and absorb the fact that, to use Ernest Hemingway’s (and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s) oft quoted line about the rich, “the poor are different from you and me. "What is a wasteful handout for the middle class is a necessity for vast majority of our compatriots living in poverty.

Middle-class Filipinos cannot be complicit in perpetuating them in this awful condition owing to class insensitivity—the kind that is on display when the chattering classes deride CCTs unthinkingly as “doleouts.”

They must not allow themselves to be unwittingly baited into the anti-poor coalition being constructed and led by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

*Walden Bello is a representative of Akbayan in the House of Representatives and senior analyst at Focus on the Global South. He can be reached at Focus on the Global South

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved