Critique of a sectoral development plan – Part II

If and when development planning is done a bit more rigorously (without being rigid), strategies and projects and programs will manifest themselves clearly.

Like this CCT (4Ps) which has one of the biggest allocation (perhaps because GOP counterpart to the WB loan has been raised). The Program contends it is targeting the poor. Well and good because that’s what it’s supposed to do. But those of us who are or have worked with the poor know that within the poor population are gradient levels of poverty. There are the poor who are credit-worthy according to assessments by microfinance institutions, the poor who are skilled and are or could capitalize on that, etc. and the poor who are absolute poor or the so-called the poorest of the poor, those at the very bottom. But what’s happening is all the poor are prioritized. This implies that we are not again learning the lesson from studies of subsidies. Findings from these studies show that subsidies do not benefit or hardly benefit the poorest of the poor – those who really need subsidies – because there was no proper targeting made in beneficiary coverage. It was assumed that all poor are the poorest of the poor.

Let’s take another example just to expound on the blanket approach: school supplies given to school children. The sponsoring agency, organization, group, or individual gets the enrollment statistics for the current or previous school year from the school, buys the supplies based on the number, and distributes them. There’s nothing wrong with giving. But if you want to make an impact or a real difference and narrow down or eliminate the gap between the haves and have nots, you have to do a bit more research and tougher decision making than just getting the enrollment record. Your research should answer the questions: if your target are schools, how many among the enrolled school children are with and without school supplies (disaggregate); if your target are children not in schools or the out-of-school children and youth, how many among are the OSYCs in the barangay (village) and of this how many would have enrolled in school if given school supplies (because there are those whose “problem” for being out of school is not answerable by provision of school supplies). And do your buying (targeting) of school supplies accordingly. In fact, if you want the school supplies to be of real value to the users/recipients, you’d ask around from the targeted users what school supplies they really need for the school year (since there are those who only need, say, paper and pencils, while there are those who only need school bag, or even school shoes, and there are those who need the whole gamut of supplies) and buy according to the needs of the users.

In Part I of this article, there is mention of working girls (children) the majority of whom did not complete primary education even at 15 years old. And why are they working? Because of dysfunctions or perhaps debilitating illnesses in the family these children are made to work to feed both their siblings and adults in their families. Among poor children, they are among the more disadvantaged. To make an impact and create real change in the lives of the bottom poor, the 4Ps should include these working children and their families in its priority list. And to make the priority list of value, design a graduated scale of cash transfer as opposed to the current PhP2,000 monthly for everyone. I mean, what’s the use of doing a baseline and maintaining a database and a separate system if you end up giving everyone the same amount? It’s like giving all your students the same grade regardless of each student’s performance.

Evaluations the world over show that CCT programs made considerable impact on children’s schooling and health. For me, one doesn’t need an evaluation to tell you these because common sense will tell you that of course the more children are chivied up into schools and health centers (as a result of the conditions to get to the carrot) statistics will record that increase; of course, food poverty within the program period will go down at least for families who utilize the transfer to buy more food or nutritious food; but no you can’t expect 24,000 a year (or, 2,000 monthly) for 5 years to pull you out of poverty in the economic sense.*

So what I’d like to know in terms of impact from the CCT program is the extent to which it changed the behavior and attitude of recipient families toward health and education / are recipient families putting their children to school and the health center for primary health care even after the phase out of conditions and cash transfers? This is what CCT is really for in the long term, the conditions are really to change the behavior and attitude of families toward health and education and the cash transfers are the incentives to “push” them toward realizing that: the carrot at the end of the stick. Impact evaluations of CCTs should therefore look at this and these can be studied perhaps five years after the phase out of the program (enough time to have everything from the program seep in and be actualized into practice).

Anyway my point really is, sound evidence and analysis will give you a plan (strategies, projects and programs) responsive to realities. And because realities change relative to time research and evaluation to capture that change or development should be done at regular intervals. This is how a plan is said to be a living document (as opposed to one that is cast in stone; because it’s lifeless it loses usefulness).

* I’ve come across quite a number of families (who haven’t reached maximum number of children allowed in the program) who say the cash transfer is actually an incentive to have more children within the program period it’ll mean an additional amount. This means CCT is incentivizing more children among already poor families who are cashing in on the program / population growth in aggregate – is this a good thing?

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