CCT: Centerpiece or centerfold?

Published by rudy Date posted on November 6, 2010

I AM not altogether against the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program as a component of the government’s poverty alleviation agenda.

My objections are: (1) the inordinately huge appropriation of P21 billion for CCT in 2011 is beyond the absorptive capacity of the Department of Social Welfare and Development; and (2) the Aquino administration’s claim that CCT is its “centerpiece program” is flawed because it is not a comprehensive approach in solving mass poverty.

It took two years to prepare the groundwork to service 1 million household-beneficiaries by 2010. It is foolhardy propaganda to project reaching 2.3 million household-beneficiaries in 2011 or an increase of 1.3 million family grantees.

What is doable is an increase of 500,000 household beneficiaries, or a total of 1.5 million persons, including the current 1 million recipients.

With a realistic increase of 500,000 beneficiaries, the appropriation can be pruned down to P15 billion or a reduction of P6 billion. The liberated amount can be realigned to the two principal allied agencies of the CCT program—the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Education (DepEd)—which both lack the necessary budgets to accommodate the increasing number of CCT beneficiaries.

The DSWD needs ample time to recruit and train additional personnel and procure and distribute more equipment and supplies for the expanded CCT. This would eat into the timetable and delay implementation.

This time constraint is compounded by the lack of health centers and medicines to enable mothers to comply with the condition on maternal and child healthcare. This is further aggravated by the lack of teachers and school facilities to satisfy compliance with the condition on school attendance of children from household beneficiaries.

All told, a good portion of an overstated appropriation will be immobilized due to DSWD’s inadequate absorptive capacity, and the success of the program will be imperiled due to DOH and DepEd inability to fully accommodate the beneficiaries for healthcare and education because of budget constraints.

DSWD projections on the success of the CCT do not differentiate between rural and urban poor. The experience in Latin America shows that the program is more successful among the rural poor whose concerns are basically limited to food, health and education, compared with the urban poor where the efficacy of the program is buffeted by variables on drug addiction, criminality, juvenile delinquency and breakdown of families.

Consequently, there should be bias in appropriation for the rural poor. This is not reflected in CCT’s proposed budget.

Considering that CCT targets as beneficiaries the “poorest of the poor,” the program seems to marginalize the “less poor” who may be more numerous and equally deserving of government assistance.

It is for this reason that a sizeable portion of the proposed appropriation for CCT should be for budgetary support to health and education to benefit those among the poor who may not qualify for CCT.

The CCT is deficient as a “centerpiece program” on poverty alleviation or investment in human capital because it is basically selective, not genuinely comprehensive.

Its coverage is not expansive enough to benefit the totality of the poor, so much so that it appears to be more like an over-budgeted “centerfold.” –Rep. Edcel Lagman, Philippine Daily Inquirer

(The author, Representative from Albay, is the House minority leader.)

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