Huge budget increase is unjustifiable in the absence of conclusive studies about program implementation and impact
The Aquino administration still does not have any major studies on the impact of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program even as it is seeks a Php18.3-billion or 86% increase in the budget for CCTs to Php39.5 billion in 2012. According to research group IBON, the huge budget increase is unjustifiable in the absence of conclusive studies about program implementation and impact.
On the eve of the DSWD budget hearings in Congress, the World Bank released a statement reiterating its recent projections, which noted that these were based on “simulations” and that an “in-depth evaluation” was still ongoing.
The World Bank came out with a policy note in July 2011 that speculated about the impact on poverty of the country’s World Bank-supported CCT program. Using an approach that it admitted had “important shortcomings” and “[without] data on compliance at the household level”, it hypothesized that the program “could increase annual incomes of beneficiaries by 12.6 percent, resulting in the reduction of poverty incidence among them by 6.2 percentage points”.
According to IBON, this only underscores the lack of comprehensive studies of the program after four years and after some Php44.4-billion worth of implementation (by IBON estimates) by the end of 2011. The rapid expansion has taken place without benefit of any major studies on implementation or impact, said the group.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) only had two studies at hand last year when it requested its large budget increase in 2011 – a report by the Ateneo de Manila Institute of Philippine Culture (IPC) and another by the Social Weather Stations (SWS). The IPC was a qualitative study conducted in January-May 2010 covering just 297 respondents selected from a mere 18 barangays in three provinces (Nueva Ecija, Northern Samar and Agusan del Sur). The SWS in turn conducted pilot spot checks in January 2010 of just 760 households, 57 schools and 16 health facilities selected from 33 barangays in only one province (Northern Samar).
The two studies have rich qualitative data but are very small compared to the ambition of the multi-billion peso CCT program which aims to reach as much as 4.6 million households in 79 provinces nationwide.
They also already pointed out various implementation problems that continue to arise today. Initial IBON estimates show that the program (as currently designed) will cost some Php250 billion over a decade. According to the group, the more money the government spends on the program’s uncontrollable expansion, the harder it will be to look at the program objectively.
A four-fold budget increase in the program from Php10 billion in 2010 to Php39.5 billion in 2012 is reckless in the absence of a meaningful assessment on how well this money is being spent or indeed better spent elsewhere. The country, for instance, has considerable backlogs in classrooms, teachers, desks, public hospitals and health workers, and rural infrastructure. (end)