Philippines: Making social protection more inclusive

By Felipe F. Salvosa II, Publications Division Chief, Philippine Institute for Development Studies

Josef T. Yap, Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS)

Josef T. Yap attending session during the GDN 14th Annual Development Conference in MAnila, Philippines

How does 7.8% GDP growth feel?
For big players in the Philippines, there is a lot of reason to celebrate, the domestic economy being the fastest-growing in Asia in the first quarter of 2013. Josef T. Yap, President of the think-tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), explains that the Philippines has leap-frogged into a service economy without going through extensive industrialisation  He argues that positive developments, are only at the macro level, and “relatively high poverty incidence and persistent inequality remain important concerns.”

To address this concern, the Aquino administration has prioritized the conditional cash transfer program- known locally as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps (“Bridge for Filipino Families”)- and PIDS researchers led by Senior Research Fellow Celia M. Reyes are providing research support to make it more effective and remove “leakages” to non-poor beneficiaries.

At the Joint Parallel Session co-sponsored by the East Asian Development Network, PIDS, and GDN Japan during the GDN 14th Annual Development Conference , Reyes called for a “deepening” of the 4Ps scheme, already the biggest social protection program ever conceived by the Philippines with a budget of 39.5 billion pesos and three million beneficiary-families in 2012.  The objective is two-fold: social assistance through cash assistance and social development through investments in human capital, particularly in health and education.

Reyes expresses her view that the existing social protection program was effective in improving school attendance for elementary ages 6-14 that are covered by the scheme, but does not influence school participation for higher age groups.

Reyes recommends that in order to make 4Ps more inclusive, coverage must be extended to high school students, who have a better earning potential than elementary undergraduates. Other recommendations include reducing leakage, the exclusion rate, and administrative costs, as well as a focus on the chronic poor. The goal is to build up the skill sets of children before they enter the labor force, which will help them get better-paying jobs. The proposed reforms will make the 4Ps program more inclusive.


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