AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR
By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star
Last December 28, 2011, STAR’s Paolo Romero reported that UP (University of the Philippines) Assistant Professor Marivic Raquiza had questioned the prioritization and budget allocation that the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) has placed on the CCT (Conditional Cash Transfer) program, to the alleged detriment of the department’s other programs.
Raquiza was quoted: “The DSWD 2012 budget is evidence of a glaring injustice: CCT enjoys the lion’s share of the DSWD budget while all other programs have to make do with what’s left. Ultimately, this only undermines the DSWD’s support for other important segments of the poor such as persons with disabilities (PWDs), senior citizens (SC), individuals and families in especially difficult circumstances (EDCs), victims of calamities and disasters, trafficked persons, among others.” Eighty percent of the P49.359 billion DSWD budget has been allotted for the CCT Program.
Among the other services that Raquiza cited as underfunded is disaster support. She remarked that the P48 million allotted for disaster victims is not even 1 percent of the total DSWD programs budget. In the case of storm Sendong, unexplained by Ricky Carandang and unappreciated by many, we were overflowing with relief goods — therefore no additional budget was needed. Rooted to human greed and irresponsibility, our climate related tragedies are beyond the mandate of the DSWD to address.
Raquiza isn’t the first to question or criticize the CCT. Others who simply don’t know what the CCT program is targeting — poverty reduction — have also criticized the CCT program. They likened the CCT Program to a dole-out and resurrected that overused line of teaching a man how to fish instead of just giving him a fish. This is typical of minds that do not comprehend the big picture. They failed to appreciate that the CCT program had already registered an impressive track record in many countries with similar problems of having a big population where many are poor.
In a previous column, your Chair Wrecker highlighted two January 2011 posts in the New York Times (NYT) of Pulitzer Prize winning writer Tina Rosenberg. Rosenberg’s January 3 (“To beat back poverty, pay the poor”) and January 7 (“Helping the World’s Poorest for a change”) NYT postings provided convincing CCT case histories.
The first case history that Rosenberg cited was the successful CCT experience of Brazil. Brazilian Favelas (slums) had become iconic for poverty. She noted that until recently, Brazil was one of the most unequal countries in the world where one part can look like ritzy Southern California while the other part looks like Haiti.
Rosenberg wrote: “Today, however, Brazil’s level of economic inequality is dropping at a faster rate than that of almost any other country. Between 2003 and 2009, the income of poor Brazilians has grown seven times as much as the income of rich Brazilians. Poverty has fallen during that time from 22 percent of the population to 7 percent.” Indeed, the Brazil poverty reduction experience is a dramatic success story.
Several factors had contributed to the Brazil poverty reduction success story, but Rosenberg gave one particular program center stage attention and spotlight — the CCT. “Brazil is employing a version of an idea now in use in some 40 countries around the globe, one already successful on a staggeringly enormous scale.
This is likely the most important government antipoverty program the world has ever seen,” she wrote. Rosenberg cited a World Bank report that the CCT program is now found in 14 Latin American countries and in about 26 other countries.
Per Rosenberg: “In Mexico today, malnutrition, anemia and stunting have dropped, as have incidences of childhood and adult illnesses. Maternal and infant deaths have been reduced.” She added: “But the most dramatic effects are visible in education. Children in Oportunidades (Mexican CCT name) repeat fewer grades and stay in school longer. Child labor has dropped. In rural areas, the percentage of children entering middle school has risen 42 percent. High school inscription in rural areas has risen by a whopping 85 percent. The strongest effects on education are found in families where the mothers have the lowest schooling levels. Indigenous Mexicans have particularly benefited, staying in school longer.”
Directed at doubters, Rosenberg said: “Here are programs that help the people who most need help, and do so with very little waste, corruption or political interference. Even tiny, one-village programs that succeed this well are cause for celebration. To do this on the scale that Mexico and Brazil have achieved is astounding.”
Among the CCT bashers, the ignoramus criticizes the CCT Program due to lack of knowledge while the anti administration factors simply don’t want the CCT Program to succeed. Seeking to undermine the Aquino government — they’d trade economic emancipation of our poor for whatever political gain they can get from scuttling the CCT Program.
A recent COA (Commission on Audit) Report noted that some CCTs were awarded to the wrong families. Let’s fine-tune the program then, but do not scrap it as some CCT bashers are suggesting.
You must understand the conditional component of the CCT in order to appreciate the program. The beneficiary must reciprocate the cash support with targeted improvements in their lives that will bring them out of poverty. CCT helps the poor help themselves.
* * *
Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: firstname.lastname@example.org and www.chairwrecker.com