‘Thanks for the cash but we need jobs’ (1)

There’s no doubt that government’s Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program, or 4Psis an important relief measure. In exchange for cash grants for education and health activities, poor families need to comply with a set of conditionalities such as ensuring school, attendance of children regular visits to health centers for immunization, preventive health checkups and maternal care.

Even President Aquino recognizes its importance, although the 4P was launched in 2007 as the government’s version of conditional cash transfer scheme to help alleviate poverty. At least that was because of the honorable Dinky Soliman, who had ALSO conceptualized the program when she was still social welfare and development secretary of then President Arroyo.

This time, President Aquino is even borrowing $405 billion from the World Bank and $400 from the Asian Development Bank for the 4Ps, and it was all because of Dinky’s graciousness.

But the Social Watch Philippines noted that it does not only increase our public indebtedness, the government ”is infusing massive intent on a strategy as it is currently conceived, that at best, will have very limited impact on poverty reduction.”

In a position paper, Social Watch said that the 4Ps does not really address all dimension of poverty and vulnerability. The usefulness of such measure is underscored only in the light of the fact that many poor people are desperate to survive these trying times.

In a study and survey of the 4P, the Social Watch found that for many beneficiaries this is the first time that they have experienced direct support from government on a relatively sustained basis and are therefore grateful for the support. Investments in education and health also improve the chance of the children for upwards social and economic mobility.

But it is not necessarily   the  “magic bullet” for poverty reduction as being perceived by government. The 4Ps has become patently just a poverty reduction program designed to address issues on maternal mortality and child mortality as we as keep children in school for five years. Other vulnerable groups like poor senior citizen, the chronically sick people with disabilities, the millions of our-of-school, and functionally illiterate or unemployed were not covered by the program.

“We believe the government should not reduce public spending for other pro-poor programs and re-channel the freed up for the 4Ps which only address a few dimensions of poverty and vulnerability and therefore only targets a sub-set of the total number of poor,” according to Social Watch.

It noted that the success of the 4Ps, which addresses the demand side by providing cash grants, actually requires ensuring the supply side like availability of health, education and transport facilities and services.

The 4P are, by program definition, also among the poorest. Social Watch said” no amount of conditionalities will work if there is lack of schools, health clinics, and means of transport in 4P areas.

“The fact that the Philippine investment in education and health is low and has generally declined between 2000 and 2006 at both the national and local government levels does not augur well for the 4Ps meeting its stated objectives. This means that public investment in education and health must significantly increase. Stress is made on ensuring the quality of services,” according to Social Watch (to be concluded). Joel Paredes

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