“It’s time for more universal approaches”, Social Watch Philippines tells government on social measures
SOCIALWATCH PHILS·FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 2020
“During this time of great insecurity and humanitarian crisis, the government should explore more universal approaches in the delivery of social protection measures,” says Social Watch Philippines (SWP) “not as an act of charity but as a matter of rights and entitlement.”
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19 #COVID19PH) outbreak has intensified poverty levels, already widespread in the country considering that the informally employed make up over 80 percent of Filipino workers. “Now is not the time to fine-tune the criteria of who is deserving of government aid and who is not. During this period of intensified and widespread poverty, they are all deserving”, observed Dr. Ma. Victoria Raquiza, SWP Co-Convenor.
According to a policy paper of SWP, the #SocialAmeliorationProgram (SAP) as currently designed may be too slow and bureaucratic. The Duterte administration is saddled with a targeting system that tends to be messy and administratively complicated as there are several lists of beneficiaries across key agencies involved with the distribution of social support measures. This has caused social protection systems to be fragmented, administratively complicated and less efficient.
If poor families are to survive the pandemic on a day-to-day basis, there may be a need to simplify and fast track the distribution of both the cash and non-cash benefits. “We urge the government to explore utilizing a combination of the geographic and self-targeting approach in the implementation of SAP to expedite the provision of public aid”, added Raquiza, who teaches public administration at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman.
SWP explains that “geographic targeting starts with the assumption that all families living in impoverished or low-income communities (for example, all fourth to sixth class barangays) are automatically qualified and should be provided assistance at the soonest possible time. In doing so, there is no need to conduct a means test or validation process per family, thereby expediting the provision of assistance.” In other words, this can mean all families registered or accredited with barangays—oftentimes those who vote—should automatically be provided with government support.
In this scheme, the local government units (LGUs) only target those poor families who are not included in the barangay list of families or households (for example, non-registered voters) and the pockets of poor families located in more middle-income neighborhoods, as well as individuals who ‘fall through the cracks’ like the homeless or orphaned children roaming the streets. “This type of targeting will be administratively easier because the government will be dealing with a smaller population size. This promotes administrative ease for many LGUs which are already overburdened and stretched to capacity,” Raquiza said.
Self-targeting, on the other hand, will apply to those who approach the LGU for assistance; according to SWP, given “the wide and indiscriminate damage wrought by COVID-19 and in the spirit of public service, it is suggested that the routine validation process of applicants be exercised with greater leniency. This will fast-track service delivery.”
SWP observes these approaches lessen exclusion, which, especially in these times, can further fuel dissatisfaction and social unrest. “On the other hand, these more inclusive schemes promote social cohesion and solidarity, especially at the community level, public values which are now most needed. They will likewise reduce local patronage politics and ‘palakasan’ as all households in poor communities will receive the support they are entitled to”, SWP claimed.
“This is a teachable moment for all of us and underscores the need to re-think and re-imagine our policies and systems in a post-pandemic world. What has been largely muted in the public discourse are the voices from below, where the poor and marginalized are portrayed not so much as beneficiaries but as citizens who count, and whose perspectives matter in public policy”. Raquiza concluded.
Read the Full Position Paper here: tinyurl.com/wdn77m
Contact Person: Ma. Victoria R. Raquiza
Contact No: 0949-8876321
Social Watch Philippines (SWP), is a network of a hundred civil society organizations advocating for transparent, efficient, accountable and pro-poor use of public funds.
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