Cash dole for poor faces Senate scrutinyBy Cathy Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Senators have warned the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program will be subjected to even more intensive questioning after the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) presented during budget deliberations what the senators believe to be a very limited survey on the program’s effectivity.
Defending their proposed P56-billion budget proposal at the Senate Tuesday, DSWD officials produced a Social Weather Station (SWS) survey commissioned by the World Bank showing that the 704 “household beneficiaries” enrolled in the program since 2008 indicated a 10 percent higher enrolment rate in preschool compared to nonbeneficiaries.
Undersecretary Alicia Bala said the families surveyed also reflected “five percentage points” higher attendance in elementary school.
Bala added that the SWS survey also indicated “more families prioritized health and education in their budget.”
She said the 704 families spent “36 percent more on education” and “33 percent more on medicines and services compared to nonbeneficiaries.”
Senator Edgardo Angara, the chairman of the Senate education committee, however, said he doubted that 704 families reflected that the program was a nationwide success.
The SWS survey, conducted in 2011, targeted only 704 families and may not be representative of the true picture of the nationwide project, he said.
Correlate with statistics
Angara suggested the DSWD “correlate” its information with “statistics based on a larger census” since what it presented was “just [a] micro of eight municipalities.”
He noted that National Statistics Office and the National Nutrition Council data showed that the incidence of malnutrition among Filipino children and the number of those not in school are actually going up.
The DSWD figures on the supposed success of the CCT should be considered “tentative” at best, Angara said.
“There’s no overall impact assessment because they surveyed less than one percent of the (beneficiaries),” he said.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said the senators would assess the proposed DSWD budget and department officials can expect that more questions would be thrown at them during the budget deliberations.
Bala stressed that the figures she quoted from the SWS survey were “just the initial result” of a review to be completed by the end of the year.
The 704 household beneficiaries surveyed belonged to a group of 3,742 chosen from eight municipalities in the first batch of 337,416 families that have been receiving cash assistance from the government since 2008, she explained.
The CCT program was started during the previous Arroyo administration as a response to the growing incidence of hunger, poverty and lack of education around the country.
Under the CCT, families are given cash incentives so that children would stay in class for 85 percent of the entire schoolyear.
Senator Franklin Drilon, the finance committee chairman, said Bala’s report could be considered important as it means “there is a behavioral change in families towards education and health as a result of the 4Ps program.”
Drilon clarified that the 4Ps (the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, the official name of the CCT program) was “technically … not a poverty alleviation but a bridge program intending to make people more conscious of need to educate their children and avail of health services.”
To date, the DSWD has enrolled 3.1 million families in the program. This number would increase to 3.8 million in 2013, it said.
Of the proposed P56 billion for 2013, the DSWD said P44.2 billion would go to the CCT program.