“No matter how much the Aquino government spends on the CCT, reducing poverty in the country still boils down to adequate social services and jobs creation, and more importantly, a ‘national development strategy’.” – Kadamay
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — It is, undeniably, the task of the state to reach out to the people, especially the poorest of the poor. So why then does the plan of President Benigno S. Aquino III to expand Gloria Arroyo’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), which is now under a new name the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), receiving so much criticism?
“Because the people needs land, work and basic social services,” Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano told Bulatlat, “Not dole outs.”
The CCT is being funded through a $400 million loan approved last September 2010 by the Asian Development Bank. Under the cash transfer program, the government, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, would distribute a maximum amount of P1,400 ($32.55) per month to poor families covered by the program.
In an Ibon Foundation report, the CCT would give beneficiary families P500 ($11.62) per month after complying with the requirement to undergo pre and post-natal care, check-ups and vaccinations for children, P300 ($6.97) per child, with a maximum of three children per family, if their children go to school. A family with three qualified children, therefore, may receive a total of P1,400 ($32.55) a month or P15,000 ($348) annually for a maximum of five years.
The DSWD said on October 4 that the CCT would cover 168 barangays in 58 towns.
However, Mariano said the Aquino administration would be spending so much on a project that does not address the fundamental problems in the country, or at least guarantee long term solutions that could reduce poverty in the Philippines.
Kadamay, an urban poor group, said while there is need to immediately address the sufferings of poor Filipinos, they could not accept such a deceitful program.
A study published by the Poverty Reduction, Equity and Growth Network (PEGNet), titled Conditional Cash Transfer Programmes and their Impact on Poverty Reduction: Lessons from Mexico and El Salvador, reveals that the CCT alone could not result in poverty reduction. “…CCT programmes are not a panacea against poverty and social exclusion and its limitations should be addressed by creating other strategies which focus on more comprehensive policy reforms such as the creation of productive options, temporary employment programmes, access to micro-credit and micro-entrepreneurial opportunities, among others, ” the report read.
During the implementation of Mexico’s CCT Oportunidades from 1998 to 2009, the depth of poverty was said to have been reduced by 30 percent. On the other hand, El Salvador’s Red Solidaria’s effects on poverty reduction could still not be determined as its implementation is still relatively recent. The report, however, noted that enrollment in preschools and elementary schools have increased by 23 percent and six percent, respectively. But, the direct correlation between the reduction in the national incidence of poverty and the increase in children’s enrollment rates with the CCT program would be hard to prove.
A loophole of the CCT, which the study pointed out, is that the program does not invest in “human capital” by honing the parents’ skills, such as in agriculture, to enable them to earn a decent income after the program lapses. No effective exit strategy is in place to prevent them “from falling back into the poverty trap.”
Carlito Badion, vice chairman of Kadamay, said, “No matter how much the Aquino government spends on the CCT, reducing poverty in the country still boils down to adequate social services and jobs creation, and more importantly, a ‘national development strategy’.”
However, the 2011 budget has further slashed appropriations for health, economic services, and public infrastructure. “…we fail to see how the government plans to meet these criteria and make the CCT program meaningful in the long run,” he said.
Lack in ‘Human Capital’
Ibon Foundation said the country might not have the ‘human capital’ to begin with. “Filipinos have long suffered from insufficient and poor quality education and health facilities, which may not be able to absorb the additional users. Further straining limited classrooms and teachers could drag down the quality of instruction even for existing students, and, likewise, with overburdened health facilities and personnel. In such circumstances the intended health improvements or learning outcomes for beneficiaries may not materialize,” an Ibon report read.
At present, the country is short of 153,000 classrooms, 13.2 millions desks and 104,000 teachers at elementary and high school levels. Of the 42,000 barangays (villages) in the country, only 16,200 have barangay health centers, while 2,200 of the supposed 2,300 rural health units have not been improved for some ten years now. The numbers of government medical practitioners, such as doctors (around 3,050) dentists (1,900), nurses (4,600) and midwives (16,800) has not kept pace with the growing population.
“That is like sending your child to a school with no teacher and a pregnant woman to a health center with no doctor or even a nurse to check her,” Mariano told Bulatlat.