by Edz dela Cruz
POOR COMMUNITIES covered by the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program are registering higher attendance in schools than communities that are not part of the program, says the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
This, among other indicators, would show that the main targets of the controversial multi-billion peso program are already benefiting from the dole outs given under the CCT, said Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman.
Soliman said findings from a recently completed Impact Evaluation Report of the CCT program by the Department of Social Welfare and Development showed that the program was “on track.” The findings were presented to the press by the DSWD and the World Bank last March 1, 2013.
Soliman says that a survey conducted by the DSWD on the target beneficiaries of the program showed significant progress in getting beneficiaries to avail of health and educational programs offered by the government in exchange for their participation in the CCT.
The CCT program, also known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), grants selected indigent families a modest monthly amount provided the families send their children to school and regularly visit health centers. The cash grants include P500 a month per family to cover health and nutrition costs, and an additional P300 for every child who is sent to school for a maximum of three children. All in all, an eligible family can claim a maximum of P1,400 from the program.
The program is meant as a safety net of sorts to prevent poor Filipinos from sliding deeper into penury.
The findings presented to the public were based on a study of 1,418 households in Lanao del Norte, Mountain Province, Negros Occidental, and Occidental Mindoro.
Among the findings presented by the World Bank and DSWD to the media:
- In Pantawid barangays, 76 percent of preschoolers are enrolled in daycare, compared to 65 percent in non-Pantawid areas.
- Up to 98 percent of children in Pantawid barangays are enrolled in primary school, as against 93 percent in non-Pantawid barangays
- Some 64 percent of pregnant mothers in Pantawid barangays had antenatal care compared to only 54 percent in non-Pantawid barangays
- For deworming, 85 percent of children in Pantawid barangays have undergone the procedure versus only 80 percent in non-Pantawid areas
- Lastly, 81 percent of children in Pantawid barangays have taken Vitamin A supplements as against 75 percent in areas not covered by the program.
“I am pleased to know that the children of poor families are indeed enjoying better and improving access to education and better health services through Pantawid Pamilya,” Soliman said in a statement distributed to reporters.
The program has been under fire since its introduction under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2008. Criticisms range from the dole-out nature of the program to allegations that the selection of target beneficiaries are politically colored. Read the PCIJ investigative reports on the CCT program here.
The CCT program has been dubbed “the cornerstone of the government’s strategy to fight poverty” and attain the Millenium Development Goals that the country has pledged to achieve by 2015.
The CCT remains as the Aquino administration’s flagship program to alleviate poverty. In 2010, the program was given a P10.92-billion budget for 900,000 beneficiaries with another P21.19 billion to expand the program to 2.3 million beneficiaries in 2011. Last year, the government allocated P39.45-billion for 3.1 million beneficiaries.
This year, the budget increased to P55.97-billion, 12.2% higher than the 2012 allocation, triggering more debates among government officials and lawmakers, and raising questions on whether the cash grants were already being used as political leverage for this year’s elections.
Aside from the annual budget provided by the national government, the program is also supplemented with loans from the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB), amounting to $805-million altogether. Loans from the WB will be repaid in 25 years, including a 10-year grace period, while loans from the ADB need to be repaid in 20 years, including a five-year grace period.
The massive cash inflow and the selective targetting of beneficiaries have raised quite a few eyebrows. During the open forum, a member of an organization for persons with disabilities asked for proof that all that cash was really resulting in improvements in the lives of those from the marginalzied sector: women, persons with disabilities, and indigenous people.
Another participant said the government should not just measure the success of the program based on the number of children being sent and kept in school and getting health services, but also on whether all that money flowing out was stabilizing living conditions and promoting self sufficiency among beneficiaries.
Soliman, on the other hand, explained that the assessment is only first of three sets, and adjustments are still to be made on the other two to measure the impact more accurately.
According to Pantawid Pamilya National Manager Rodora Babaran, the DSWD has already conducted re-assessment and validation surveys to correct inclusion and exclusion errors in targeting beneficiaries.
“There is no such thing as a perfect system.” Babaran added, noting that errors for programs such as 4Ps are unavoidable.