A lead economist in the World Bank’s poverty reduction and economic management department of the East Asia and the Pacific Region on Tuesday clarified that the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program is not an anti-poverty scheme.
Rogier Van den Brink explained during The Manila Times’ 3rd Business Forum in Manila that the CCT, otherwise known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), enables poor Filipino families to send their children to school and to afford their medical and health needs.
“The CCT is not (intended) to lift people out of poverty but to allow them to send their kids to school and attend to their hospital needs… That’s why the numbers don’t add up,” said the Bank executive.
To effectively lift the poor from their plight, he said, the government must “create better jobs.”
Under the CCT, each family is entitled to P6,000 a year in medical assistance for pregnant mothers and another P3,000 in educational assistance for poor children.
Last week, the World Bank approved a $450 million funding for the CCT, which Malacañang claimed to be government’s flagship anti-poverty program that benefits more than four million poor families.
“This is a concrete recognition that the government is right on track and is effectively administering support for 4.4 million families (under the CCT),” Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in welcoming the development.
“For the past five years, the 4Ps and CCT have contributed immensely to the country’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, particularly on achieving universal primary education, reduction in infant and child mortality, improvement in maternal healthcare and universal healthcare, and supporting employment,” he stressed.
The P450 million package will provide basic healthcare and education to millions of Filipino families until 2019 under the bank’s Social Welfare Development and Reform Project II.
The government has allotted almost P63 billion ($1.3 billion) of its P3 trillion 2016 budget.
“The World Bank is steadfast in its commitment and support for the CCT because we believe it contributes to reducing extreme poverty and inequality,” said Cecilia Vales, the bank’s acting country director for the Philippines.
About 25 percent of the Philippines’ 100 million people live below the poverty line.
The 4Ps or CCT program has grown into one of the largest and best-targeted social safety net programs in the world, with 82 per cent of the benefits going to the bottom 40 per cent of the population.
A labor federation composed of 250 unions on Tuesday welcomed the $450 million (P21 billion) loan for the 4Ps.
Jose Sonny Matula, president of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), said his group is “in favor of the 4Ps as immediate assistance to the poorest of the poor.”
Matula said the program, which started during the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, “benefitted particularly women and their children in terms of health, nourishment and education.”
WITH NELSON S. BADILLA