The reports that the World Bank (WB) gave the country’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program – the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program – high marks for being one of the “largest and best-targeted social safety net programs in the world” is at best, misleading and at worst, a grand deception.
We read the 185-page WB report evaluating the social safety net programs of various countries entitled, “The Sate of Social Safety Nets 2015” but we have not read any such glowing statement specifically praising the country’s CCT program.
As such, the alleged effusive praise of the country’s CCT program by the WB’s Lead Technical Expert on Social Safety Nets, Ruslan Yemstov, is but a positive spin on a non-achievement.
A careful reading of the WB report shows the country’s Pantawid program was considered one of the largest social safety net programs because it has one of the highest number of beneficiaries in the world – 4 million households (or 19 million people) and counting. But that’s only because PNoy and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Dinky Soliman ramped up the Pantawid program in the last 3 years. Of course, largest does not necessarily mean effective.
Also, the WB report does not say that the Philippines had “one of the best targeted social safety net programs in the world.” What the report actually says is that “CCTs [conditional cash transfers]are among the best targetedprograms…”
That simply means CCT programs are better at reaching the poor compared to the other types of social safety net programs like unconditional cash transfers (UCTs), school feeding, in-kind transfers (or dole outs in kind [e.g. food stamps] rather than cash), social pensions, and public works.
In fact, the WB report says there is nothing extraordinary about the country’s accomplishments under the Pantawid program. A 2014 impact evaluation study cited by the WB report found that the results of the Philippines’ Pantawid program are just “comparable to the levels of impact found in other CCT programs around the world at [the same]stage of program maturity, particularly in terms of the program’s achievements in improved use of health services and school enrollment.”
The WB’s propaganda for the Pantawid program is not surprising. Over the last decade, CCT programs have become a favorite anti-poverty initiative of international aid organizations for developing countries. And the WB is admittedly the leading donor and backer of CCT programming. As principal proponent of the Pantawid program, WB is hard pressed to prove that it is achieving positive results for the aid money it spent.
The WB’s motives, however, are not purely altruistic. As they say, there’s no free lunch in this world. Money that’s borrowed must be repaid – with interest.
Since 2010, the Aquino government has accumulated at least $900-million (P42.3 billion) in loans from the WB and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to fund the CCT program. This is on top of an earlier $405 million (P19 billion) loan from the WB in November 2009.
According to the research group IBON, it is estimated that the country’s total loan service for the WB and ADB loans for the CCT program could reach at least $1.007 billion (or P46 billion at current exchange rates). This does not include the interest payments on the $500 million loan obtained by PNoy in 2014.
So what do PNoy and Soliman have to show for this massive taxpayer burden? Not much, based on both government and independent data.
In the latest Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS) by the Philippine Statistics Authority, poverty incidence among Filipinos even went up to 25.8 percent in the first half of 2014 from 24.6 percent during the same period in 2013. Subsistence incidence among Filipinos (or the proportion of Filipinos in extreme or subsistence poverty) in the first semester of 2014 remained at 10.5 percent, the same level in the first half of 2013.
The APIS results on the worsening poverty in the country mirror that of Social Weather Station (SWS) surveys.
In its latest poverty survey in March this year, the SWS said the country’s poverty level remained unchanged. More than half of Filipino families (51 percent) still rated themselves as poor during the first three months of the year compared to 52 percent in the previous quarter, and the 2014 average of 54 percent.
Meanwhile, dropout rates among elementary and high schools students have been on the upswing since 2008. According to figures from the Department of Education, the dropout rate in the elementary level went up from 6.02 percent in SY 2008-2009 to 6.81 in SY 2012-2013. The same trend can be observed for the secondary level dropout rate, which ranged from 7.45 percent in SY 2008-2009 to 7.82 percent in SY 2011-2012.
Nonetheless, Budget Secretary (and Liberal Party stalwart) Butch Abad insists on allocating a whopping P62.35 billion budget for the 2016 CCT program despite the Pantawid program’s dismal results. This, to our mind, is clearly in aid of election, not in aid of the poor.