Not just because it’s election time, but because it is the right thing to do, the Conditional Cash Transfer Program, or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), as it is known locally, should be seriously studied for institutionalization in law as a major commitment of the national government, regardless of whose administration.
A most successful CCT program globally
By the reckoning of many, including the World Bank, the Filipino adaptation of conditional cash transfer as a strategy and program for the mitigation of mass poverty has been a significant success. It’s considered by the WB as one of the most successful CCT programs in the world. Although he merely continued the program originally conceived and implemented by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President Aquino can rightly claim 4Ps as one of the few successes of his administration. It was also a successful program of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration.
Recognizing the effectiveness of the program so far, all the five presidential candidates in the May elections have pledged to continue the program under their respective administrations.
This is commendable and stabilizing. It will help to reassure all the 4.4 million families, who today rely on the cash transfer to keep their children in school and to meet their nutritional needs. But the proper policy should not only provide for continuity; it should correct the current defects of 4Ps (such as excessive politicking) and improve the program altogether.
Expansion and innovation for 4PS
We think congressman and senatorial candidate Martin Romualdez has the right idea and approach in his proposal for the institutionalization of the 4Ps in law.
Romualdez has already drafted a bill, (which will become a Senate bill if he wins election to the Senate), and which proposes major expansion and innovation on the program, as follows:
Doubling the number of beneficiaries from 4.4 million families to 8 million, to include all families that qualify and accept the conditions;
Eliminating completely the control by local politicians of the CCT in their respective communities in order to free the program from politicking; and
Significantly increasing the level of financial and health assistance to beneficiaries.
He is correct when he says that the program should not be dismissed as a doleout that makes poor families permanently dependent on the government. The fact is, CCT, if implemented and reformed properly, can provide a precious chance for many poor families to improve their lives and their prospects. By focusing on the children, we give them a chance at a better future.
We agree that with the expansion and growth of the economy (which presumably will continue as it has been a steady phenomenon throughout the Macapagal-Arroyo years and predictably went on in the Aquino years), our country has been in a strong position to do more for the millions of our poor.
Significantly, thousands of CCT beneficiaries have already signified their support for the passage of the proposed bill in the next Congress. This is to be expected, but nobody should dismiss this as self-centered. Rather we should welcome it as a sign that for once, a government pro-poor program has connected with the poor in a meaningful way.
In time, this will translate into considerable benefits for our people and our country.
CCT is not a one-size-fits-all anti-poverty program; every country must adapt to its capacities and conditions.
CCT is providing hope to millions across the world, especially in Latin America, where the program was launched.
CCT or 4PS is doing the same here in our country and helping millions of our people.
As such, it deserves to have protection in law, and a regular share of the national budget.