MANILA, Philippines — The P21-billion Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program of the Aquino government will not reduce poverty, according to a United Nations expert on social development.
Dr. Sarah Cook, director of the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), insists that in spite of the reported growth in many economies, income and wealth inequalities persist.
Cook said the yawning gap between the haves and have-nots is most pronounced along ethnic and sexual lines, with minorities and women sharing less of the purported expansion of economies.
In a paper delivered before members of Social Watch Philippines (SWP) and the faculty and students of the University of the Philippines-College of Social Work and Development (UP-CSWD) Wednesday, Cook said the Aquino government should give priority to a “universal approach to social protection and social services.”
She cautioned government that it would be futile to target only segments of the poor through CCT, which was recommended and financed by the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB.)
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman has been implementing the CCT, which also secured its funds through a hefty cut in the budget of the National Food Authority (NFA), which has to make do with R2.5 billion for its rice procurement program.
Out of its P21-billion fund, the DSWD will be spending P4 billion just to train personnel in handing out cash to the urban poor, which is the segment targeted by the program.
Budget Secretary Butch Abad actually gave NFA a zero budget for 2011 but Congress gave it an appropriation of P2.5 billion.
“Rising inequality contributes to the persistence of poverty even when concern for its reduction has been high on the policy agenda of governments,” Cook said.
Cook presented the UNRISD flagship report titled “Combating Poverty and Inequality: Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics,” in a forum with SWP and CSWD at UP Diliman.
Comprehensive social policies are essential for addressing poverty and inequality is the third key element.
“Evidence presented in the UNRISD Report further demonstrates that the most significant reductions in poverty have occurred in countries with comprehensive social policies that aim at universal coverage. Moreover, social assistance programs are most effective when designed as an integral part of long-term comprehensive social protection strategy that leans towards universalism,” Cook said.
Marivic Raquiza, SWP co-convenor, explained that the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) which is the government’s version of the CCT, is designed to address maternal and child mortality and to keep children in school for five years.
“Other vulnerable groups like the elderly, out-of-school youth, chronically sick and the jobless are not covered by the program. The 4Ps only addresses a few dimensions of poverty and targets only 21.3 percent of the total 4.7 million poor Filipinos,” she said. -MARVYN N. BENANING, Manila Bulletin