Feature: PH team that includes Leyte gov to observe CCT implementation in Mexico

Published by rudy Date posted on May 28, 2011

It is known in different names in different places. In Mexico where it began and has been equally successful at reducing poverty, it is Oportunidades. In Brazil, where it is even bigger, it is known as Bolsa Familia. In the Philippines, it is Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino or 4Ps.

The generic term for the program is conditional cash transfer and the idea is to give regular payments to poor families, in the form of cash or electronic transfers into their bank accounts, should they meet certain requirements.

The requirements vary, but many countries employ those used by Mexico where families must keep their children in school and go for regular medical checkups, and their mothers must attend workshops on subjects like nutrition or disease prevention. The payments almost always go to women, as they are the most likely to budget the money for their families.

The elegant idea behind conditional cash transfers is to combat poverty today while breaking the cycle of poverty for tomorrow.

A team composed of Philippine government officials, five Department Secretaries, one governor, one mayor, is set to leave for Mexico on May 29, in order to observe the implementation of Oportunidades with the end in goal of ensuring the best and most effective way of implementing the conditional cash transfer program of the Philippines.

Leyte Governor Carlos Jericho L. Petilla is the only governor in the team composed of DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, NAPC Secretary NAPC Secretary General Jose Eliseo Rocamora, DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo and another Secretary, and one mayor.

In Mexico, Oportunidades today covers 5.8 million families, about 30 percent of the population. An Oportunidades family with a child in primary school and a child in middle school that meets all its responsibilities can get a total of about $123 a month in grants. Students can also get money for school supplies, and children who finish high school in a timely fashion get a one-time payment of $330.

The Bolsa Familia in Brazil now covers about 50 million Brazilians, about a quarter of the country. It pays a monthly stipend of about $13 to poor families for each child 15 or younger who is attending school, up to three children. Families can get additional payments of $19 a month for each child of 16 or 17 still in school, up to two children. Families that live in extreme poverty get a basic benefit of about $40, with no conditions.

The program fights poverty in two ways. One is straightforward: it gives money to the poor. This works. And no, the money tends not to be stolen or diverted to the better-off. Brazil and Mexico have been very successful at including only the poor. In both countries it has reduced poverty, especially extreme poverty, and has begun to close the inequality gap.

The idea’s other purpose — to give children more education and better health — is longer term and harder to measure. But measured it is — Oportunidades is probably the most-studied social program on the planet. The program has an evaluation unit and publishes all data. There have also been hundreds of studies by independent academics. The research indicates that conditional cash transfer programs in Mexico and Brazil do keep people healthier, and keep kids in school.

In Mexico today, malnutrition, anemia and stunting have dropped, as have incidences of childhood and adult illnesses. Maternal and infant deaths have been reduced. Contraceptive use in rural areas has risen and teen pregnancy has declined. But the most dramatic effects are visible in education. Children in Oportunidades repeat fewer grades and stay in school longer. Child labor has dropped. In rural areas, the percentage of children entering middle school has risen 42 percent. High school inscription in rural areas has risen by a whopping 85 percent. The strongest effects on education are found in families where the mothers have the lowest schooling levels. Indigenous Mexicans have particularly benefited, staying in school longer.

“This is likely the most important government anti-poverty program the world has ever seen,” Governor Petilla informed the Philippine Information Agency.

“It is worth looking at how it works, and why it has been able to help so many people, and how the program ensures proper use of the resources which are given to the beneficiaries,” Governor Petilla said.

Several municipalities in Leyte are covered under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of the Aquino Administration and every time, the DSWD in the Region distributes the conditional cash assistance to the family beneficiaries, the Governor is always heard reminding the families to use the money for the intended purpose.

Governor Petilla’s commitment to make the 4Ps program successful has not been left unnoticed. In fact, he is the focal person on 4Ps program for the Visayas.

The sketchy information Governor Petilla gave (because he still has to attend the team orientation on May 28 in Manila), is that the team’s work will not stop with the observation tour. After the tour¸ the team will have focus group discussions on how to best implement the Conditional Cash Transfer program in the country. (PIA 8)

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