Failure of cash aid program reflects noninclusive growth — political analysts

Parents and students are seen crowding the entrance of the Pura V. Kalaw Elementary School in Project 4, Quezon City, Aug. 22. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

POLITICAL analysts at the weekend cited the government’s failure to make economic growth inclusive, citing state data that showed 90% of beneficiaries of its conditional cash transfer program remained below the poverty line.

“This situation is more a reflection of the failure of the country’s unprecedented economic growth to translate into real economic gains in our marginalized communities,” Terry L. Ridon, a public investment analyst and convenor of think tank InfraWatch PH, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

The state failed to create jobs and sustainable livelihood programs to help the poor get out of the program, he said.

The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, also known as 4Ps, is a conditional cash transfer program that was launched in 2007. It was institutionalized in 2019 through a law.

Earlier this month, the Commission on Audit said 3.82 million people under the program have remained under the poverty threshold for as long as 13 years.

Arjan P. Aguirre, a political science professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, said the program should improve the economic standing of its beneficiaries.

“The livelihood component of the 4Ps program, most especially, should be strengthened to allow the beneficiaries to have stronger capabilities to enhance their social and economic potential through their own creative means,” he said in a Messenger chat.

Albay Rep. Jose Ma. Clemente S. Salceda said the 4Ps program is essential but should be supplemented with investments in the countryside.

“Money alone is not enough,” he said in a statement last week. “While it creates virtuous cycles in local economies and provides a basic social safety net that allows poor households to take more rewarding risks, money is not enough. Money on an individual and household level is not enough.”

Mr. Ridon said cash subsidies to the poor would continue indefinitely without a concrete plan on job generation specific to 4Ps families.

He added that this was fiscally unsustainable “as marginalized communities will continue increasing, particularly at this time of wide-ranging economic difficulties.”

The 4Ps program released a total of P537.39 billion in cash grants to 4.26 million beneficiaries from 2007 to June 30, 2021. — Matthew Carl L. Montecillo