Gov’t cautioned against conditional cash transfers: Program unsustainable, adds to debt burden

While giving out cash transfers to indigent families may be an option at certain times, this should not be at the core of government poverty programs.

As allocations for poverty programs continue to be deliberated in the national budget for 2011, research group IBON cautions government on the conditional cash transfers program (CCTP), saying that the program is not sustainable and will add to the country’s debt burden.

The 2011 national budget has proposed a Php29.2-billion allocation for the CCTP, a program that distributes cash to indigent families with various conditions such as ensuring the children’s school attendance among others. The program is funded by loans, and with the latest US$400 million-loans (Php19 billion) from the Asian Development Bank, will mean an additional debt burden for Filipinos.

The program moreover is not sustainable; according to the group, when funding for the program runs out, Filipinos will be left jobless and poor as ever, especially with how present economic policies prevent the economy from creating jobs and incomes for the country’s growing population.

Even the United Nations (UN) has criticized current approaches to cutting poverty like the CCTP and has warned that these may be “misconceived” especially with how such programs separate poverty from broader processes of economic development. The UN has moreover estimated that these approaches to poverty may leave around 1 billion poor worldwide by 2015.

IBON stresses that the CCTP is a dole-out program which does not address the roots of poverty and only sugarcoats the implementation of the neoliberal policies that have caused deep unemployment and severe poverty in the country.

The group moreover notes that the program is prone to corruption, especially with its primary task being the distribution of cash down to the barangay level. Similar to other countries that implemented the CCTP, the program lacks a reliable monitoring mechanism ensuring that cash transfers are received by indigent families.

While giving out cash transfers to indigent families may be an option at certain times, this should not be at the core of government poverty programs. IBON stresses that basic economic reforms are needed to substantially address poverty. At present however, the CCTP seems to divert the public’s attention from the real causes of poverty and on how government continues to implement problematic economic policies that worsen the conditions of poor Filipinos. (end)

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