Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Conditional Cash Transfers forum at CSWCD sheds light on flaws in CCT conceptualization and implementation

By Chanda Shahani

A forum held yesterday on Conditional Cash Transfers at the College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD) at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) at Diliman revealed deep problems with the Aquino administration's centerpiece project which is set to receive a significant chunk of the national budget in 2012.

The forum had four speakers: Professor Marivic Raquiza, of U.P. Diliman's National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG), Sonny Africa, Head of Research of IBON Foundation, Christian Deloria, Focal Person, 4Ps Monitoring and Evaluation of Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) and Rommel Millora, Focal Person, 4Ps Grievance and Address System of DSWD.

Dr. Rosalinda Pineda-Ofreneo, Dean of U.P. CSWCD gave the opening remarks. Also distributed during the forum were the results of the Roundtable Discussion of the UPCSWCD Social Protection Cluster, November 17, 2010 which gave in tabular format both the arguments for and against CCTs.

Mr. Africa, referring to the Philippine Development Plan from 2011 to 2016 which is essentially the development blueprint of the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III, said the document specifically states that CCTs are to be given directly to the poor through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program(4Ps) “which shall be the cornerstone of the government's strategy to fight poverty.”

Mr. Africa said that this approach will not solve poverty because it is being used as “a smokescreen” to cover more fundamental structural problems bedeviling Philippine society for decades.

He also criticized the CCT program for not having a clear exit strategy, since the program is destined to end in five years. He likened this to the Ozone Disco tragedy where 164 people died in 1996 in a disco club fire in Timog Avenue, Quezon City when they could not flee due to a blocked exit.

Setting the conceptual framework, Mr. Africa said that 20.9 million Filipinos were unemployed or underemployed. Of this number,4.4 million were jobless, 4.2 million were "unpaid family workers" and 12.3 million were "own account" workers. He said the average unemployment rate in the country was 11.2% from 2001 to 2010, with 65 million living on PhP 104 a day. He said according to the government's own definition of "poverty threshold," only PhP 46.00 a day per person was needed to remain above this threshold, which he said was clearly not enough.

He said problems with the implementation of CCTs including administrative concerns such as non-deserving beneficiaries receiving CCTs, including as those classified as non-poor who owned well-built houses, assets, tricycles and even stores. On the other hand, other problems had to do with deserving non-beneficiaries not receiving CCTs such as those living in remote areas or those not living in permanent or fixed households. Another problem, he said was lax implementation such as those who received CCT funds with unmet conditions or falsified compliance.

Unintended consequences of CCTs including putting additional burdens on their chief recipients - women upon whom the responsibility fell to ensure compliance; misspent cash transfers such as on gambling and alcohol and manipulation of extraneous conditions: granting or witholding of cash due to patronage politics or to discourage activism within a community. He also pointed out that if some people received cash within a community while others did not, friction would be created within a community due to jealousy. He also said that there was a lack of a convincingly strong health component to the CCTs: as those requiring medical help beyond a few pain killers did not have access to affordable quality health care.

He said that there was no true empirical basis to allot such a huge number of household beneficiaries for CCTs under the 4Ps program. The breakdown was as follows with the following number of beneficiaries with corresponding amounts: 2007 (4600), 2008 (320,411), 2009 (734,691), 2010 (1 million and PhP 10 billion), 2011 (2.3 milion and PhP 21.2 billion), 2012 (3 million and PhP 39.5 billion). He added that from the period 2012-2016, a total of PhP 307 billion would have been allocated for CCTs.
Mr. Africa said the problem is that these huge expenditures were backed by skimpy data based on a January to May 2010 study from IPC Ateneo which only targeted 207 respondents from 18 barangays in three provinces, a January 2010 SWS pilot spot check which targeted 760 households, 57 schools and 16 health facilities from 33 barangays in one province and a November 2010 and February 2011 SWS spot check which covered only 8 towns of four provinces.

Professor Raquiza, who is also the co-convener of Social Watch Philippines said that  there were problems with CCTs from a women's rights and gender rights perspective; even if CCTs in fact directly  targeted women as the chief recipients of government funds.

A kind of a caste system was created by choosing some types of poor to receive government funds while other types of poor were excluded from receiving CCT funds, she said.

She said that just because women were the majority recipients of CCTs it did not mean they were its beneficiaries. She explained that the concept of CCTs was  problematic from a feminist perspective because the assumption of the government was that women were rational beings and will engage in optimal behavior which runs counter to the basic tenets of feminism which states that people and the relationships that bind them are determined by society.

She said that her conclusions were derived from an analysis of data which came from a Social Watch Philippines (SWP) study of the 4Ps and a recently held Visayan consultation organized by NCPAG and DSWD.She said she also relied on conclusions and findings from the papers of Corina Rodriguez Enriquez and SMERU Research Institute on women and CCTs in Latin America and Indonesia, respectively.

She said that there is a lack of consideration of gender in the design and implementation of the 4Ps in particular and CCTs in general.

She said that while an overwhelming majority of household beneficiaries of CCT programs including the 4Ps are women, this does not necessarily mean that CCTs are focused on gender or guarantee that these will contribute to the promotion of women's rights and gender equality.

She said that in the 4Ps apart from the goal of achieving Millenium Development Goals on maternal mortality, there are no other explicit program goals related to women's rights and gender equality.

Professor Raquiza also said that CCTs were "dole outs" that discriminated against those who did not have access to the labor markets, such as persons with disabilities. The DSWD estimates that at least 10% of the population is made up of persons with disabilities.

While she did admit that the situation in the Visayas showed that CCTs resulted in enhanced relations between spouses in households; these did not necessarily solve the structural problems leading to the disempowerment of women and other disadvantaged groups in terms of the creation of macroeconomic policies to create the right environment for job creation which will lead to a heightened demand for labor within the country, she said.

In terms of decision making over the cash grant, she pointed out that the experience of Indonesia's CCT Program Kelauraga Harapan (PKH) showed that CCTs did not bring about significant changes to the position of women or in intra-household gender relations. Moreover, the bargaining power of women in relation to her husband remained unaltered because while the wife decided on daily household expenses, the men decided on matters that were deemed more strategic or important including the more prominent expenses.

Professor Raquiza said that a fundamental weakness of CCTs in general and the 4Ps in particular was that women were singled out as being the main participants in the program leading to gender stereotyping of women such that women were forced into the role as primary caregivers within the family, thus freeing their partners from this responsibility.
She said this is controversial because it perpetuates the notion that women must be the primary caregivers within the family and reinforces the traditional gender division of labor which is at the root of gender inequality.

Professor Raquiza's colleague in Social Watch, its Convenor and NCPAG Professor Leonor Briones has also said in the past that CCTs by themselves are not capable of substantially addressing the issue of poverty. CCTs also need to be augmented with a package of other measures for there to be a real dent in levels of poverty in the country.

Meantime the DSWD's Mr. Deloria acknowledged that there were many criticisms regarding the 4Ps program. He added that the proposed funding submitted by the Aquino administration to Congress for 2012 had DSWD receiving PhP49 billion with PhP going to DSWD's traditional services and PhP39 billion for CCTs.

"CCTs are not the solution; but we recognize that the Aquino administration is really pro-CCT," he said, adding that "it was not a magic bullet," and that several politicians, such as Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago were not in favor of CCTs. Senator Santiago has questioned the premise for allocating such huge amounts of cash to CCTs at the expense of other legitimate and vital government expenditures such as allocation to State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).

He said that in 2012, 700,000 households would be the target beneficiaries of CCTs with the end goal of human capital development such that the behavior of the recipients would need to be changed in order for them to engage in more ideal behaviors leading to a greater probability of their becoming more successful in economic terms.

He said that cash was an ideal commodity as opposed to some physical commodity like rice because money does not spoil and can easily be transferred and disbursed throughout the banking system of the country. Money can be used for priority expenditures of households, he said.

Responding to Professor Raquiza's comments on CCTs not being gender-responsive, he said that CCTs and the 4Ps were not meant to be gender-responsive per se.

Mr. Deloria said that important evaluations of the success of the 4Ps would be done in November and December of 2011 where 8000 households would be surveyed. He also said the program was dynamic, and that after three years, there would be a mid-term assessment and an end-of-program assessment when the program is finished in 2016.

Mr. Millora, also of the DSWD said that any interested party could complain about the 4Ps program at the DSWD hotline at 0918 912-2183. He said that in general, money is not disbursed without the conditions of the transfer being met. "If we cannot monitor you, then the conditions do not exist for us to transfer cash to you," he said, referring to recipients of CCTs under the 4Ps program who had complained about not receiving their funds.

President Benigno S. Aquino III himself has said that CCTs are intended to infuse cash directly into the countryside creating a pump-priming effect benefiting the less advantaged sectors who cannot benefit from traditional trickle down growth expectations coming from economic growth.

A U.P. study co-authored by U.P. School of Economics (UPSE) Dean Arsenio M. Balisacan and released in 2010 found that CCTs worked well in their pilot form under theadministration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and had the potential to help end the vicious cycle of poverty.

The UPSE study said that assessments of CCT programs show significant positive impacts on nutritional intakes, schooling performance,and reduction in poverty and inequality. "Of all the government's current subsidy programs, the CCT initiative holds perhaps the most promise for breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and, hence, is a good candidate for upscaling toward a national anti-poverty program," the study said.

Meantime, Lila Ramos Shahani, an assistant secretary of the national Anti-Poverty Commission in the Office of the President said in a letter to the Philippine STAR that was uploaded on September 8, 2011, that "for those who maintain that CCTs cannot be the cornerstone of the government's anti-poverty strategy, the fact of the matter is that, quite simply, they're not." Assistant Secrtetary Shahani's explanation of the government's conceptual framework of CCTs can be accessed here.

Notice of full disclosure: Assistant Secretary Shahani is the sister of this writer. Professor Marivic Raquiza is a contemporary from U.P. Diliman when we were both students there and Professor Leonor Briones is a personal friend of this writer's mother, former Senator Leticia R. Shahani. Nevertheless, every effort has been made by the Diliman Diary to present a balanced account of CCTs which remains a contentious issue that we will continue to cover at every possible opportunity.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive

The Diary Archive