Position Paper on the 4ps
Position Paper on the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) or Bridging Filipino Family Program
David D. Dueñas, RN University of La Salette Graduate School I.
The 4Ps is a social program that entails monetary and non-monetary transfers to the poor or poorest families who have school-aged children on the condition that they meet the program’s terms that are aimed at improving their capacities (Cecchini
and Madariaga 2011). Brazil and Mexico were the first countries that implemented that 4Ps program. The main objective was to provide cash to families who are in extreme poverty in exchange for some education and health care commitments. Since then, many countries, including the Philippines, have attempted to replicate their examples.
The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, or 4Ps, is the Philippines’ version of the conditional cash transfer. Based on the Department of Social Welfare and Development Studies (DSWD) primer, the 4Ps is a poverty reduction and social development strategy of the national government. It provides cash transfers to extremely poor households to help improve their health, nutrition and education. The program specifically targeted poor families with children aged 0-14. The two main objectives of the program are social assistance and social development. The former aims to alleviate the poor’s immediate needs, hence it can be termed as a short-term poverty alleviation measure. The latter, however, aims to break the intergenerational poverty cycle by investing in human capital. Meanwhile, the 4Ps helps in fulfilling the country’s commitment in the Millennium Development Goals particularly in: (1) eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; (2) achieving universal primary education; (3) promoting gender equality; (4) reducing child mortality; and, (5) improving maternal health. The 4Ps has two components, namely: health and education. Under the health component, the program provides PhP6,000 annually (PhP500 per month) to each family-beneficiary for their health and nutrition expenses. Under the education component, it provides PhP3,000 per child for one school year (i.e., 10 months) for meeting educational expenses. Each family beneficiary shall receive for up to a maximum of 3 children under the educational grant. In return, the family-beneficiaries have to commit themselves to the following conditionalities: (1) pregnant women must avail of the pre- and postnatal care and be attended during childbirth by a trained medical professional; (2) parents must attend family development seminars; (3) children aged 0-5 must undergo regular preventive health checks and receive vaccines; (4) children aged 3-5 must attend day care or preschool classes at least 85 percent of the time; (5) children aged 6-14 must enroll in elementary or high school and attend at least 85 percent of the time; and, (6) children aged 6-14 must receive de-worming pills twice a year. The family-beneficiaries will receive the grant for at most five years, provided that they comply with the conditionalities.
The eligible beneficiaries of the 4Ps are families: (1) from the poorest municipalities; (2) whose condition is equal to or below the provincial poverty threshold; (3) with children aged 0-14 and/or a pregnant woman at the time of assessment; and, (4) that agree to meet the program's conditionalities. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has chosen the poorest municipalities based on the results of the 2003 Small Area Estimates (SAE) generated by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). For municipalities with poverty incidence higher than 50%, all barangays are assessed. But for those with poverty rate lower than 50%, the criteria for selecting barangays are the “pockets of poverty” based on the available socioeconomic profile of the municipality.
As of September 2012, the DSWD reported a total of 3,038,420 families that were reached and assisted by the 4Ps. From merely 340,391 beneficiaries in 2008, the number of beneficiaries increased by a rate of 54 percent per year, on the average. The year 2015 marks the seventh year of the 4Ps implementation in the country since its inception in 2008. Meanwhile, the government continues to expand the implementation, devising along the way, several variants that it deems necessary to address the many facets of poverty. As program graduation nears, many questions arise of what to expect of the most expensive and infamous social protection program of the Philippine government. It is rather fitting at this point to draw together assessments that have been conducted so far and to look into some issues that the program has encountered.
II. COUNTER ARGUMENTS Pouring cash to the poor President Aquino continued and expanded Arroyo’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program. With increased loans from the Asian Development Bank, DSWD
Secretary Dinky Soliman estimated that the 4Ps program would benefit some 2.3 M families by the end of 2011. From a budget of 10B in 2010, 23 billion was allotted for 2011. An additional 4B is allotted for trainings of implementers. The increased budget allotted for the program has been criticized by a lot of sectors, including NGOs, lawmakers and even from former president Arroyo. One of the strongest criticisms is that the program merely functions as a dole-out, giving short solutions to the poor while wreaking havoc on the long term with massive debt sourced from outside. Social Watch Philippines’ study on 4Ps beneficiaries revealed that while the beneficiaries were grateful for cash grants, they said that what would lift them from poverty would be access to decent and regular employment. Ibon Foundation’s position paper, “Conditional Cash Transfers and the Persistence of Poverty”, stated that CCTs remain as dole-outs because families get cash unrelated to their labor. It is also discretionary and not sustainable in the long run. Seven representatives of the party-list groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis, Alliance of Concerned Teachers and Kabataan released a joint press statement in October 2010 calling for the scrapping of the CCT program as it does little in enhancing the long-term social security of the Filipino people. The party-list representatives pointed out that “Not only does the 21 billion dole-out offer an empty promise of alleviating poverty, it further contributes to the country’s worsening financial health with its added burden of multibillion loans from international financial institutions.” The 4Ps does not address all the dimensions of poverty and vulnerability The 4Ps program is patently a poverty reduction program designed to address issues on maternal mortality and child mortality, as well as keep children in school for five years. Other vulnerable groups like poor senior citizens, the chronically sick, people with disabilities, the millions of out-of-school, and functionally illiterate or the unemployed poor are not covered by the program. As such, other anti-poverty programs designed to address the other dimensions of poverty must likewise be prioritized. For example, tuberculosis remains one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among the Filipino poor and yet, the budget for the Indigents’ Program under the Philippine Health Insurance Program was reduced by thirty-three percent for 2011. Furthermore, twenty percent of school age children and youth are out of school, and yet they get less than one percent of the education budget. While the 4Ps is designed to attract the out-of-school to re-enroll, studies conducted locally and around the world have shown that a significant majority of the out-of-school will never return to school even with attractive packages. To continue, the housing
budget was slashed by half for 2011(from P11 B in 2010 to P5.6 B), a move that will certainly negatively impact on the rising number of informal settlers in dire need of mass housing. Finally, the majority of the poor are in the rural areas and public investment in agriculture, fisheries and forestry remains low. Much of the rationale used by government to justify low and or decreasing levels of public spending in these areas is to be able to free up and provide additional sources for the 4Ps, a policy position which we disagree with. “Thanks for the cash but we need jobs.” Most of the beneficiaries it surveyed expressed gratitude that with the cash grants, the health and education status of their families were improving. Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority of beneficiaries said that what would lift them out of poverty was access to regular employment. This underscores the fact that one of the most important elements in the fight against poverty is productive employment, an important component of MDG 1. What works in other countries may not necessarily work here. Context matters. While conditional cash transfers (CCTs) around the world share similarities, features vary across countries, and more importantly, the economic and social policy settings in which these CCTs are embedded in, also vary. For example, Mexicos’ Oportunidades, apart from education and health cash grants, are accompanied by cash transfers for food and for the elderly while in Brazil, Bolsa Familia is part of a larger economic and social protection scheme composed of ‘complementary actions’ and services to poor families. Among the significant ‘complementary actions’ are employment creation, provision of income generating activities, and improvement of housing conditions. Loans for what? Borrowing US$405 M from the World Bank and US$400 from the ADB for the 4Ps because it not only increases our public indebtedness, which is cause for concern in itself, but more so because the government is infusing massive investment on a strategy, as it is currently conceived, that, at best, will have very limited impact on poverty reduction. III.
CCT program in the country is dubbed Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. The term pantawid, rightly describes the initiative, that of being a tide-over, or more figuratively, a bridge through which poor Filipino families could cross over some trying economic times.
Theoretically, these government services provide a support system to help poor families navigate the challenges of urban poverty. Unfortunately, many of them are unable or unwilling to use these services. Among the reasons for the access problems are a lack of awareness, feeling of shame, rudeness by staff, and not being eligible for the programs. The watchdog organization Social Watch Philippines points out that the reach of the 4Ps program is limited: vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the chronically ill, millions of school dropouts, and the unemployed poor are not eligible. Moreover, service provision to urban squatters, who represent a large number of poor settlers in the National Capital Region, is especially difficult due to lack of documentation such as missing birth documents and illegal squatting. The services are often unavailable to those who need them the most. It is a tremendous challenge for the government to bridge these service delivery gaps. Despite the positive outcomes of the 4Ps, the program has not yet gained applause from several groups and public officials, especially that the program will see an expansion. One of the arguments against 4Ps is the expectation that the program would encourage excessive reliance on cash transfer. The common perceived consequence of this is the withdrawal of beneficiaries from seeking gainful employment or any other sources of income. The 4Ps is not a stand-alone anti-poverty measure. The fact that its success depends also on supply-side factors such as the availability of health care and educational facilities implies that its functionality is also determined by the amount of support given to the overall development strategy, and not just on 4Ps. If development were a process, 4Ps could be considered a catalyst of this process as it speeds up the inclusion of the vulnerable individuals, for whom anti-poverty programs are intended. This assumes the presence of the other aspects of development. However, relaxing this assumption implies that there must be a similar provision of support not just to a single poverty reduction program such as the 4Ps but also to all aspects of development. Thus this situation reverts to reality which is exactly the case of the underdeveloped Philippine society.
The future of Philippines’ poor is uncertain. Their fate relies on several variables that cannot be accurately predicted. Government agencies are the first, and perhaps most important, variable. The government is the agent with the greatest
amount of resources at its disposal, whether in terms of funds, manpower, data, or legal authority. However new and modern 4Ps may be, it miserably falls short of squarely confronting the old and nagging issues of patronage politics, inequitable distribution of wealth, gender inequality and discrimination. Unless these are thoroughly addressed, it is difficult to imagine many being liberated from real and perpetual poverty. Targeting the chronic poor would direct the program to those who need the assistance most.