The Philippines' cash transfer system has failed in its stated aim of identifying the poor and providing them social protection. The reasons for this failure and the consequences of it are investigated in this article by Emma Lunn Dadap-Cantal, Andrew M. Fischer and Charmaine G. Ramos.
Published in Critical Social Policy, the article corrects the dominant celebratory narrative about the conditional cash transfer programme in the Philippines, the Pantawid, and its associated social registry, the Listahanan.
The authors argue that the targeting system has in fact been unable to function according to its primary purpose of identifying the poor and providing them social protection, despite being celebrated precisely for this purpose. This has been partly – but not only – due to the increasingly obsolescent data of the registry, which the political system has been incapable of correcting. Because of this, coverage is low, down to 17% of households by 2020, and transfer amounts are at a fraction of the food poverty line.
This has resulted in a quasi-permanent group of cash payment recipients, with little or no reflection of evolving poverty profiles. This revised reading of the Pantawid and Listahanan, in what might be considered as a strong case to examine social protection performance, brings us back to the perennial problems associated with poverty targeting in even best-case social protection programmes promoted by international donors and organizations.