Do targetted cash transfers by the national government to the poor and vulnerable sectors really help them cope with the high cost of living these days?
Last month, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released P5.2 billion to cover the one-month requirement of the Targeted Cash Transfer (TCT) program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The amount released would benefit around 9.8 million identified beneficiaries. That’s not a small number of people getting helped by the government.
Secretary Amenah Pangandaman explained the rationale for the latest round of cash assistance to the vulnerable sectors: “The DBM fully supports the projects and programs that provide social assistance to our fellow kababayans.
“It was the President himself who gave the marching order not to neglect those in dire need. Thus, we will do everything we can in our capacity so that they may receive the benefits they are entitled to.”
The TCT Program grants unconditional cash transfers of P500 per month to the most affected households for six months to mitigate the effects of the increase in the prices of fuel and other non-fuel commodities on vulnerable populations.
That may be a minuscule amount for a family’s basic needs, but every little bit helps.
The DBM had previously released a total P10.33 billion to the DSWD covering two months of cash transfers for 10 million target household beneficiaries.
The P5.2 billion release is part of the P9.1 billion computed requirement to cover the one-month grant for the 9.8 million identified beneficiaries and three-month grants for additional 2.6 million beneficiaries of the TCT program.
At the start of the Marcos Jr. administration in July, the DBM released P6.2 billion in cash subsidies for households worst hit by the continuing rise in oil prices.
The cash was distributed by the DSWD to six million households, of which four million are among beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). The rest of the two million were social pensioners or senior citizens.
The previous administration had rejected calls to suspend excise on oil products amid skyrocketing global prices wrought by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Instead, the new administration has opted to give away cash aid to the most vulnerable sectors as targeted support.
This is the correct move, with no less than the World Bank citing the Philippines where the current main tool to address the impact of high inflation is cash assistance to the poor as well as the agriculture and transport sectors.
Rising inflation, it said, could be best addressed by cash transfers to vulnerable households and groups as it is the least fiscally costly way to mitigate the impact of inflation, and it is much better than universal and untargeted subsidies which are really not sustainable, especially in a period where fiscal space is limited.