Poverty and Conditional Cash Transfer

A Reaction Paper on the Article Written By Randy David Presented by: JOEFREY C. MIRAFUENTES –oOo– While the article wished to present the acceptability of the Conditional Cash Transfers as an immediate response of the Philippine Government to the beleaguering effects of poverty, it also presented another reality that cannot be obscured away from discussing such societal problem, and that is the susceptibility of this stimulus program to be exploited as an instrument for corruption.

The widespread prevalence of poverty in the Philippines is a major crisis that has been hounding the sincerity of the government for decades. This old- age problem that is already deep-seated within the economy has quickly become an everyday reality for impoverished Filipino families; and one that deserves to have meaningful and long-term solutions from the government.

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However, lessons in the past reminded us that none of the administrations in the political history of the Philippines had actually delivered a sustainable solution to the problem as it is too evident in the present day situation that the same stigma has been passed on to present generations of Filipinos. Latest survey from the National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) even reveals that poverty incidence in the country were up by 16% in 2008 (www. roundreport. com/World/NSCB-Survey-Poverty-increased). Because this problem is so prevalent and widespread in the country, it will be very hard for the Philippine Government to immediately put an end to poverty in the next six years. But hope is still alive for this practically resource-rich nation to stand on its own feet again–a word of assurance that the Aquino Administration is currently working on with the promise of a truthful and corrupt-free government.

A BAND-AID SOLUTION. It is quite obvious that the alleviation of poverty is also at the core of the present administration’s concern. In fact, the increase in budget allocation intended for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) or the so-called Conditional Cash Transfer for the poorest of the poor families excellently manifests how the Aquino administration is really resolved on getting every poor Filipino family out of poverty line.

Though it exemplifies the effort of a responsive and caring government, it is highly impractical for the government to continue dwelling on strategic program like the 4Ps as long-term solution to poverty. This has to be considered only as quick and temporary intervention for easing the effects of poverty among poor and highly marginalized families while the government is trying to fast-track projects to stimulate development that will alleviate poverty.

With a limited budget mostly funded by a loan grant from foreign financial institutions like ADB, the program is not that too accommodating for other people particularly among families, who by virtue could be considered to be poor and marginalized but unfortunately, were not qualified to receive the benefits under the criterion of the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR).

On the lighter side, this subsidy would somehow spell temporary relief for qualified poor families to get across daily financial constraints, with the assurance that they in return must comply with the conditions set forth by the program. As a short-term poverty reduction and social development strategy, the 4Ps does not necessarily provide a sustainable solution to ending poverty in the country as it would only provide band-aid solution to the effects of the problem and not necessarily to the cause of poverty.

Though, this would help assure government that the poor especially women and children are given attention under the program through social assistance to alleviate their immediate needs and social development through health services and free education for their children. The conditional cash transfer program has proven to be an effective way of keeping children healthier and in school as asserted by Camilla Holmemo, ADB Poverty Specialist. However, one could not help but worry also of the idea that this would only create precedence among poor families to be fully reliant on the help xtended by the government and would only prevent them from realizing that they are still in full control of their future. To give cure to this so-called societal decay, the government must seek meaningful ways to fight the decay from the core. The problem on poverty lies on the fact that the poor are denied of equal access to opportunities. While the Aquino government shall continue on extending conditional cash assistance to immediately ease hunger among poor families, it must carefully plan strategic ways to address poverty systematically from the grassroots level as the barangay.

It must create opportunities where poor families are not deprived and left unattended. As to how these opportunities can be realized is a challenge that has to be shared by all agencies of the government and for government to have more funds and financial aids available. A MILKING COW? One could not help but worry again of the kind of fate this program will have in the future, especially when this government is immediately associated with graft and corrupt practices.

This country has its long history of corruption that is why citizens of this republic were already repugnant of the fact that some officials in the government entrusted with public trust and confidence are actually turning government projects into a milking cow for their own personal benefit. For government programs like the 4Ps which has enormous budget allocation, it would not be unlikely that such government subsidy could be susceptible also to waste and leakage.

It is an ominous reality that corruption is undeniably an impediment to any directed developmental efforts of the government for the economy and the people. That is why, it is very important for the Aquino government to be sincere on its pursuit for good governance. I laud the Aquino government for its initial steps of rebuilding trust and confidence within the government bureaucracy. To me, it is the important thing as showing the people that change must start from the initiator.

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