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Short-term cash handouts failed to make impact — WB

FAMILIES ENROLLED in the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program may have to receive handouts for more than a year and a half in order to see a significant impact on education and jobs, the World Bank  (WB) said.

In a study titled “Long-term impacts of a short exposure to CCTs in adolescence: evidence from the Philippines,” the World Bank found the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) fell short of its objective to break the “cycle of intergenerational transmission of poverty.”

The study focused on beneficiaries aged 12.5-14 years old who joined the program in 2008. The World Bank said the study showed that these beneficiaries did not see any significant improvement in their education and labor market outcomes after receiving cash handouts for one and a half years.

One of the 4Ps’ objectives was to ensure the young beneficiaries would enjoy better socioeconomic outcomes as adults.

“We demonstrate that just 1.5 years of exposure is not sufficient to move the needle on the core objectives of most CCT programs: education, translated into superior labor market outcomes and poverty reduction,” the World Bank said in a report published Thursday.

“At the same time, our results suggest that just 1.5 years of cash transfer support during critical transition from adolescent to adulthood may trigger delays in marriage and fertility for girls: we find evidence of delay in marriage by one year, and delay in the first birth by approximately half a year. We do not find impacts on any other indicator of women’s empowerment, though,” it added.

The flagship CCT program of the Philippine government, 4Ps provides poor Filipino families with cash on the condition that they keep their children in school and subject themselves to health examinations.

The program saw 300,000 beneficiaries during the first year of implementation in 2008, and now currently has four million family beneficiaries. The budget for the 4Ps also surged to P78 billion in 2017 from P50 million in 2008.

Beneficiaries can receive cash transfers for up to five years if they meet the specific conditions under the program.

The World Bank cited previous studies that an additional 1.5-2 years of exposure to the CCT program could generate a more lasting impact, compared with short-time exposure.

“We interpret our results as sobering and cautiously optimistic at the same time,” it said.

Among beneficiaries, the World Bank noted there is an increased likelihood of violence by spouses who do not want their female partners to work professionally.

“This effect is compatible with an increase in women’s willingness to work, without any change in their partner’s attitude to women working,” it noted.

The 4Ps secured various credit financing from multilateral lenders last year to supplement its budget.

In September 2020, the World Bank approved a $600-million loan for the program. The Asian Development Bank also granted loans worth $500 million for the program. —  Beatrice M. Laforga

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