targeting the poor does not work

Targeting the poor provides opportunity for corruption in delivery of benefits, even when the beneficiaries are older persons. Here is an example from Nueva Ecija, a province in the Central Luzon region of the Philippines.

[A]bout 450 fuming seniors … cited several cases like striking out of names from the list, double entry, inclusion of unqualified beneficiaries, double pensioners violating the senior citizens act and unjust treatment by the social workers.

Juanito Corpuz, chairman of the 2nd District office of senior citizens, claimed the social workers refused to release the P500 pension to the relatives of those who are bedridden or unable to walk unless the claimants personally appear to claim the money. ….

Jaime Boncato, president of the Nueva Ecija Federation of Senior Citizens Associations, said families of the elderly mentioned that politics could be behind the complicity of village officials and social workers who believe their candidacy in the last barangay elections was not supported by certain beneficiaries.

Celso M. Cajucom, “Ecija elderly slam pension anomaly“, The Manila Times, 31 August 2018.

Nueva Ecija has 150,000 senior citizens, of whom about 30,000 are classified as poor, so eligible for the monthly benefit of 500 pesos (less than 10 US dollars). The article does not provide information on how many actually receive the benefit.

Despite poor results with targeted old age pensions, the government is beginning, in a more remote area, a pilot three-year programme for nearly 50,000 indigent households. Each selected household will receive an Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT) of P200 (USD3.73) per month from September 2018, increasing to P300 (USD 5.60) per month in 2019 and 2020.

The article contains no information on the administrative costs of selecting households. Nor is there any explanation of why the benefits are so low. It would not surprise me to learn that the administrative costs exceed the sum of cash benefits delivered. If delivery of pensions in Nueva Ecija is not atypical, we can expect soon to hear of complaints regarding delivery of these tiny cash benefits.

Following a field validation, the DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development] Region 1 has identified the 48,999 beneficiaries. Most of them are located in the province of Pangasinan ….

Report [sic] from the National Household Targeting Section (NHTS), Regional Information Technology Officer Aristedeo V. Tinol said there were 68,480 poor households from the 76,103 targeted poor households that were validated in the UCT database.

Some 7,623 households, however, were not validated because some existing beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program cannot be located, the housing units of the households are vacant during the validation activity, some do not have qualified respondent or refused to be interviewed, while others have relocated to other region.

Leilanie Adriano, “Unconditional cash transfer to benefit 48,999 households in R1“, Philippine News Agency, 31 August 2018.

It does not surprise me that some household heads refused to be interviewed, as receipt of such a small sum of money must be stigmatizing.


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