Conditional cash transfers (CCTs) are among the most popular social protection schemes today. Promoted by multilateral institutions, notably the World Bank, CCTs have been adopted in at least 30 countries as of 2008, with further ones expected to follow suit in the coming years (WB‘s CCT Webpage). The map below shows these country-adopters. CCTs are grounded on the principle that human capital accumulation is a development vehicle which can be achieved by providing money to poor households, often to women, on conditions that they ensure children‘s regular attendance in school, accompany them to health clinics, and participate in classes and workshops on topics related to health, nutrition, and sanitation (St. Claire 2009: 177; Bradshaw 2008: 188; Hall 2006: 691). Citing the experiences of Latin American countries, particularly Mexico and Brazil, advocates have repeatedly claimed that CCTs are an effective and efficient means of reducing poverty and hunger, keeping children in school, enhancing the use of preventive healthcare, empowering women, and increasing the freedom of poor households to invest in their varied needs (WB‘s CCT Webpage; ECLAC 2004). No wonder, with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline getting near, CCTs have been in vogue in a number of countries, including that archipelagic country in the east—the Philippines. In view of the worsening poverty situation and the MDG targets, the Philippine government ran a pilot CCT project in 2007, targeting 6,000 poor households in two provinces and two cities. It proceeded to implementing a full-scale program in 2008, calling it Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and targeting 320,000 additional households. When Benigno Aquino III was elected president in 2010, he decided to sustain his predecessor‘s 4Ps, and further expand its coverage so that when he bows out of the presidency in 2016, it will have reached a total of 4.3 million households (PCIJ 2011). Quoting the Philippine Development Plan 2011–2016, CCTs are the ―cornerstone‖ upon which the government ―has anchored [the] epic battle against poverty in the land‖ (ibid.). This research has avoided the usual route of scrutinizing the implementation and (non)impact of CCTs in particular, and of development programs in general. It has taken one step back, and examined the factors that influenced or helped shape the government‘s decision to adopt CCTs in a country marked by a long history of poverty and inequality, and was once described as the Latin America in Asia1. The interest on this topic grew out of the observation of the government‘s continued adherence to the so-called residual type of social policy and social provision despite the lessons learned from and the criticisms hurled at past and on-going initiatives. It is in fact worth noting that the 4Ps which of late is called Pantawid Pamilya, is just one of the targeted and palliative poverty reduction measures pursued in the country. An earlier one, and internationally acclaimed at that, is the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan (Linking Arms Against Poverty) or KALAHI which has been the flagship poverty reduction program since 2003. A critical review of the KALAHI program reveals that its overall intervention does not offer a more permanent and effective way out of poverty because it lacks coherent plans and mutually supporting projects; and that its social protection component is neither broadly implemented nor viewed to provide permanent economic opportunities for the poor to accumulate assets and to engage in permanent income generating activities (Lim 2009: 29). An assessment of the Philippines‘ performance vis-à-vis the MDGs supports this analysis. It stresses that… Social protection in the Philippines is not universal; it is simply a bundle of safety net measures targeted at the poorest of the poor. It is [neither] a rights-based entitlement for all citizens…[nor a determined effort to] address the structural causes of...
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