Monday, 11 January 2010

Editorial: Helping the poorest of the poor

Business Mirror

NOT a few balk at the idea of giving alms to beggars on the streets, as they think that this would only encourage mendicancy.

But the idea of extending help to those who are so down and out that they’re likely to literally die on the street because they have nowhere else to go is gaining ground at both the national as well as international levels.

Last week President Arroyo said she would certify as urgent a House bill that seeks to institutionalize her conditional cash transfer (CCT) program known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, or 4Ps.

House Bill 6590, or the Bulsa Pamilya Act of 2009, is patterned after a similar program in Mexico, Brazil and other Latin American countries that has earned praise from the World Bank and other international aid agencies as an effective propoor program.

What 4Ps does is give conditional cash grants to extremely poor families—those with a total income of not more than P6,000 annually—to improve their health, nutrition and education.

Each household gets P500 per month for health and nutrition expenses, and P3,000 for one school year or P300 per month per child for educational expenses, for a maximum of three children per family.

A qualified family with three children would, therefore, receive a subsidy of P1,400 per month during the school year or P15,000 per year as long as they comply with certain conditions.

The conditions? Pregnant women must get prenatal care, childbirth must be attended by a skilled or trained person, and mothers must get postnatal care. Children zero to 5 years must get regular health checkups and vaccinations. Children 6 to 14 must attend school at least 85 percent of the time.

Last year the 4Ps was expanded to benefit 300,000 more beneficiaries, or from 700,000 to 1 million families in the 20 poorest provinces in the country, as well as qualified families in Metro Manila.

Where the program will get its funds to make it sustainable is the question that’s likely to be asked by skeptics. The program requires funding of P5 billion each year until 2013. The government is using its own funds to finance the program. This is not a big sum considering the number of the poorest of the poor, but late last year the World Bank came to the rescue with financing to the tune of $405 million. That will certainly boost the country’s fight against poverty, but it also raises legitimate concerns about our ability to get out of the debt trap.

The other key question is whether the government can effectively implement the program. The burden of carrying out 4Ps lies with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which sees it as the backbone of the country’ social-protection program. We should give it enough time to fine-tune the program and make sure the money really goes to those who need it.

It is true that the CCT program is a stopgap solution, as it will augment incomes of beneficiary households by only about 20 percent, which is hardly enough to keep their body and soul together. But it nevertheless reduces the vulnerability of poor households to sudden economic difficulties.

The cynics will scoff at the program as a massive dole-out that will only encourage people to depend solely on the government for their survival. But why not? Given the wretched and miserable conditions under which the poorest of the poor in this country now live, the CCT program is heaven-sent. We should give it all the support it needs as a social safety net for the poorest of the poor.

1 comment:

  1. POVERTY—The Biggest Problem in Asia

    Everyday, 25 000 people die because of poverty-related issues and every 5 seconds, one dies from it. Poverty. Poverty means not being able to afford the basic human necessities such as clean water, shelter, food, health care, and education. Poverty is the biggest issue Asia is currently facing and Asia is where most of the poor people live. There are more unfortunate people in Asia than in Africa because of overpopulation, corruption, and lack of education. Approximately 1.7 billion people are currently living in poverty and many people don’t realize this because many of them don’t see beggars since they live in the high, sophisticated area. Many people believe that the poor should really be separate than the normal, and the high class people. For example, I am a student who is currently studying in a wealthy school. A few miles behind our school, there are thousands of people out there who are sick, who live in terrible conditions, wrecked house, no food, electricity, and no access to safe water. Poverty is such a serious problem in the Philippines that over 3000 Filipinos sell their organs and blood just for money. Many people don’t realize this because the truth is hidden and buried, but if people actually see how serious this issue is, they will act. It is proven that if people are more aware, there is a higher probability that they will take an action. If only this issue is more known, more people will act, but the media don’t show the truth, so we must go search for it ourselves. There are many reasons why there is poverty such as overpopulation, corruption, lack of education, healthcare, and lack of access to safe water.

    Corruption means the act of dishonesty or bribery. There is a lot of corruption in poor countries because people need money, so wealthy people give them money just to get what they want and the poor people have to follow because they want their money. Corruption is one of the major causes of poverty because of inefficient government. For example, there is a corruption list worst being 10 and the Philippines is about 9.3/10! The Philippines is poor because of the poor, inefficient presidents that we had the past few decades. For example, President Ferdinand Marcos, a Filipino dictator that increased the price of basically everything! He spent his money on both himself and his wife, Imelda Marcos who had over 3000 pairs of shoes! He is the second most corrupt president out of the whole world, and Mr. Erap holds the tenth rank. All of these people live in pure wealth, while other people live in horrendous conditions that they cannot possibly imagine. Over the past years 20 years, the Philippines lost a staggering amount of $48 billion dollars because of corruption, inefficiency, lack of education, corrupt presidents, and basically poverty.