EDITORIAL – How to ruin the 4Ps (Philippine Star)

Among the surest ways to ruin a praiseworthy project in this country is to inject politics into it. So the government must do everything to keep epal politicians from claiming credit for the conditional cash transfer program as the 2016 general elections approach.

The cash transfer, also called the 4Ps or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, is done without any government official handing over the money. Instead beneficiaries withdraw their cash from designated banks and ATMs, with only taxpayers plus the World Bank to thank for the funds.

In return for the cash transfers, beneficiary households must keep children of basic education age in school. Mothers must also undergo regular medical checkups at designated health centers. The program is being expanded to include livelihood assistance.

Similar poverty alleviation programs have been launched in several other countries, with mixed results. Among the most successful are those in Brazil and Mexico. In the Philippines, where the program was launched during the Arroyo administration and expanded under the current one, the results have been generally positive.

The program, administered by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, is also helping to diminish patronage politics among the very poor. This will be undermined if epal politicians take credit for the program, even if they are not allowed to get their hands on the cash transfers. Allowing politicians to interfere in the program also threatens support from the World Bank.

Apart from taking undeserved credit, there are increasing reports all over the country of incumbent local government executives and barangay officials insisting on playing a key role in selecting beneficiaries, with those supporting their rivals excluded from the 4Ps. This can only generate public resentment and erode the credibility of a program that has been presented as a non-partisan effort to alleviate poverty, promote women’s health and reduce the school dropout rate. If kept unchecked, such abuses are sure to doom a laudable program.

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