CCT can be used to buy votes, expert warns
MANILA, Philippines - If Filipinos are not vigilant, the government's Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program for the poor can be used for vote-buying in the 2013 mid-term elections, an expert warned.
In a media roundtable at the Asian Development Bank headquarters in Manila on Friday, October 19, Santiago Levy, Vice President for Sectors and Knowledge of the Inter-American Development Bank, said this has happened before in Latin America.
"It doesn't work in all countries in Latin America all the time. Governments are tempted to manipulate and governments are sometimes prone to a similar kind of behavior and the only counterweight that you can have is again, hopefully a strong legislature, a strong press, and lots of information," Levy said.
To prevent this from happening in the Philippines, Levy said the government should explore measures such as suspending the registration of new CCT recipients 6 months prior to the conduct of elections.
It will also help, Levy said, to assure the poor that they are entitled to receive benefits under the program regardless of their political leanings.
"In Mexico for instance, when I was in government, we distributed information to households that's it. (We told them) your participation in the program is guaranteed, you are not obligated to go to any political rally, you are not obligated to participate in any political meeting or vote for anybody," Levy said.
Poor families enrolled in the CCT program are required to send their children to school, and submit them to regular medical check-ups.
Need for regular evaluation
Levy said that one of the ways to address inefficiencies in CCT programs worldwide is regular evaluation. This can help solve problems with targetting that often lead to leaks.
He said such leaks are experienced even in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia -- the countries that, by far, have the best CCT programs all over the world.
The expert said the programs in these countries are not perfect, but have significantly improved through the years. Mexica started its CCT program in 1997, Brazil in 2003 and Colombia in 2000.He attributed this improvement to regular evaluation of programs over the period of their implementation.
Levy said countries in Latin America have an average leakage rate of 30%. This means that 70% of the benefits go to "poor and very poor" households, while the rest are received by "less poor" households who are in the borderlines of income deciles.
"There are still some families who need it (CCTs) who don't get it and there's still some families who get it but don't need it. But by evaluation, you can measure this and say well, 80% of the recipients indeed are poor, 20% are non-poor, there's a leakage there and we should try to fix it," Levy said.
Not a panacea for poverty
What is important to remember on CCT, Levy said, is that they should not be the sole anti-poverty program of a government. He said even if the government gives out CCT to the poor, but the education and health sectors have problems, it will still not result in poverty reduction.
Levy said the government must make sure that there are classrooms, books, and teachers in schools. For health, he said the government must make sure that health clinics have nurses and there are ample medical supplies and medicines.
He added that the government must also ensure that there is enough jobs to accommodate new entrants to the labor force. Levy said without available jobs, the CCT will not lead to poverty reduction. - Rappler.com
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