Too much too soon
The Aquino (Part II) administration wants to increase the 2014 budget for its program called CCT (conditional cash transfer), although its hardly used official name is “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino” program, to P63 billion.
The CCT is the anti-poverty program of the government that started in 2008 with a budget of less than P400 million. Under our dear leader, Benigno Simeon (aka BS), the government poured into it some P21 billion in 2011, P39 billion in 2012 and, in this election year 2013, P44 billion.
This time, if the Aquino (Part II) administration gets its way in Congress, the CCT budget would increase from less than P400 million in 2008 to P63 billion in 2014, an astonishing jump of more than 150 times in just six years. Too much too soon!
Still certain lawmakers, particularly those belonging to the opposition, who have termed the CCT as nothing but “dole out,” deem the huge increase in the CCT allotment unreasonable.
The wrangling in Congress may signal a possible bare knuckle fight over the huge jump in the CCT budget proposed by Malacañang.
Let us listen to neophyte Sen. JV Ejercito: The government in effect uses borrowed funds for the CCT; the Aquino (Part II) administration wants a huge increase in CCT budget, although there is no definitive study to show that the program works in solving the problem of poverty; perhaps the money can better serve the poor if we use it for other projects that have measurable ROIs, such as vital agriculture infrastructure or outright employment for CCT beneficiaries.
In other words, the P63-billion CCT budget for 2014 is still a lot of money, considering that the finances of the Aquino (Part II) administration are a bit tight, as the government hardly hit its yearly revenue targets so far under our dear leader, BS.
A study initiated by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank suggested that the CCT might have been the reason for the increase in enrollment in public schools in CCT areas chosen by the administration.
We all know that to quality for the “cash subsidy,” the CCT beneficiaries must enroll their school age children, thus increasing the subsidy by P3,000 a year for every child enrolled in school.
The World Bank-funded study noted an increase in enrollment in CCT areas, perhaps indicating that the program must be hitting its goals in using education as a means to alleviate poverty in the country.
Well and good! It is just that the World Bank, and for that matter even the ADB, actually gave the Philippine government a huge loan to fund the CCT, amounting to about $850 million a few years ago.
Well, nobody can honestly expect any study by the World Bank and the ADB to cast doubt on any program that they funded with the money of their member-countries.
True—it is highly possible that the CCT was the reason behind the increase in the enrolment in schools where the government distributed the cash subsidy. Question: Did the schools in those areas successfully cope with the increase in student population?
The children of the poor under the CCT program may have been encouraged to go to school, but doubt remains on the quality of education that they are getting, considering that our public schools suffer the lack of basics like teachers and classrooms.
Heaven forbids that those CCT beneficiaries would only add up to the ever-growing number of our educated but jobless youth.
You see, other studies done by local institutions are pointing out, in essence, the same worries expressed by lawmakers such as Ejercito, warning against what they termed as “rapid expansion” of an outright dole out program by the government.
Remember—the CCT is about to go from a budget of less than P400 million to P63 billion, in just six years, and the numbers would show that, under our leader, BS, the CCT budget already more than tripled in the past three years.
Question: Did the Aquino (Part II) administration conduct studies to justify—concretely and convincingly—the P63-billion CCT budget for 2014?
In the past, think tanks pointed out that, in this country, there are basically two kinds of “poor:” The persistently poor (no prospect of enough income whatsoever, otherwise known in media as the “poorest of the poor”) and the temporarily poor (those who lost their jobs, for instance).
Whether or not the CCT addresses the needs of the poorest of the poor has yet to be determined. It is feared that a good portion of the CCT, estimated at about 30 percent of the CCT budget in the past three years, did not go to those abjectly poor segments of the population.
In other words, the Aquino (Part II) administration in the past three years gave billions upon billions of pesos of our tax money as dole outs to people who were not really poor.
For the proposed CCT budget of P63 billion for 2014, the misdirected amount in the program—at the estimated rate of about 30 percent—should reach about P20 billion. Wow! That is twice the reported amount (P10 billion) involved in the pork barrel scam allegedly done by fake NGOs over the past several years. And all in just one year!
In fact, the implementing agency of the CCT, the Department of Social Works and Development, had admitted as much when, at one point, it removed thousands of CCT beneficiaries from the program. Reason: They were not really poor.
That, ladies and gentlemen, leads us to the real issue: How does the Aquino (Part II) administration choose the beneficiaries of this out-and-out dole out? If you believe government officials—belonging to both the ruling party and the opposition—the process is actually laced with politics.
In the last election, talk was that the administration would release the bulk of the CCT budget around the time that outfits like SWS and Pulse Asia would do their regular surveys on the popularity ratings of our dear leader, BS.
From what I gathered, the DSWD followed a general guideline in choosing the beneficiaries, picking out the poor in pockets of poverty in the poorest municipalities. The guideline, in effect, qualified only one municipality out of every four municipalities in the entire country.
Yet all along everybody thought that in every city and town there are extremely poor people. They apparently did not have the eyes of the Aquino (Part II) administration in its huge dole out program.
Originally, the CCT was supposed to be a five-year program starting in 2008. And so by this time, the recipients of the cash subsidy in 2008 should have graduated from the program. It is perhaps time to look into the success of the program—or its failure. Did the CCT really take the beneficiaries out of poverty?
The fact remains that, despite the CCT in the past six years, with the money poured into the program already amounting to more than P180 billion, the rate of poverty in this country is still increasing, due mainly to rising unemployment rate.
Is the CCT really working or is it just another political tool, and nothing has really changed in this country under our dear leader, BS?
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