Well-placed social safety nets draw World Bank’s praise

Published by rudy Date posted on December 14, 2008

THE World Bank has commended the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for its efforts to put in place well-targeted social safety nets like the conditional cash transfer, or CCT.

The CCT provides modest food, health and educational subsidies to the poorest of the poor in return for sending their children to school, attending health centers and having regular prenatal and postnatal care for mothers.

“It’s one of the best ways to help the poor cope with the current crisis,” says Bert Hofman, World Bank Country Director for the Philippines.

“CCT is a developmental program that invests in people, it is not a dole-out,” DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral said in a forum on the CCT held at the Asian Institute of Management.

“Our program which we call ‘Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino’ enhances the role of parents and helps them accomplish their duties and responsibilities to their children,” she said. “The program encourages them to invest in the future, in particular in the health and education of their children and in the nutrition and food for their families.”

The program, Hofman said, could also become the foundation for a modern social protection system in the country.

A good targeting system could be complex to develop, he stressed, but it can be used for many other social programs, not only for direct transfers like the CCT, but also for health care, education, housing and utilities, among many others.

The DSWD began piloting the CCT involving 6,000 families in poor communities in Agusan del Sur, Misamis Occidental, Pasay and Caloocan in January 2008.

Initial results, according to Cabral, indicate much improved use of educational and health services among the poor, thus enabling local governments to meet their social services targets.

The DSWD expects to cover more than 320,000 households nationwide by the end of 2008.

It provides cash grants to beneficiaries, including P500 a month for health and nutrition expenses and P300 a month per child for educational expenses.

In effect, a household with three qualified children could get P1,400 monthly.

“Beneficiaries are selected through computerized ‘proxy means test’ that ranks poor households based on their household characteristics,” Cabral explained.

Besides the conditions that beneficiaries’ children should stay in school and have regular checkups at health centers, the DSWD also requires pregnant women to get pre- and postnatal care and be assisted by a skilled birth attendant during childbirth.

“CCT as a social safety net helps households manage risk,” said Margaret Grosh, lead economist for the World Bank’s Social Protection Unit. “At the minimum, safety net programs help households facing hard times avoid irreversible losses, allowing them to maintain household assets, from which they earn their living, and to adequately nourish and school their children.” –Manila Times

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