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Real evidence supports ‘Pantawid’

Having a scientific system of monitoring and evaluation is a best practice of good governance. Social Weather Stations is pleased to have participated in the data-generation side of the system, by fielding many surveys required by the “Pantawid Pamilya” or conditional cash transfer program.

As a whole, the system for evaluating Pantawid is the responsibility of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which developed it with technical and financial support from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

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The role of SWS. Since 2010, several survey projects for spot checking and impact-evaluation of Pantawid have been awarded to SWS by the DSWD, ADB and World Bank, on the basis of competitive bidding. The projects are quite complex. Questionnaires are predesigned, separate for each type of respondent, and very long. Respondents are preidentified by name and address, presumably drawn at random from the DSWD data base.

The stipulated sample sizes are very large. The pilot spot check in Northern Samar, for instance, took over 2,500 interviews of mothers, children, parent-leaders, teachers, health workers, municipal officials, bank officials and others. The first impact evaluation survey had 3,742 households in late 2011, plus 4,156 households in early 2012.   The second impact evaluation survey interviewed 9,342 households in October-December 2013.

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With directly-hired staff, SWS translates questionnaires to local languages, locates and interviews respondents, encodes responses, reports basic tabulations, delivers soft data sets to sponsors for analysis, and archives the data. SWS vouches for these data, which are for anyone to analyze. Having been designed specifically to evaluate Pantawid, these are superior to general-use surveys with peripheral reference to Pantawid (see my “Pantawid: 71% bull’s eyes,” Opinion, 7/20/13).

ADB uses the impact-evaluation surveys. The country director of ADB, Richard Bolt, wrote (“Pantawid’s promise to reduce poverty,” Rappler, 7/8/15): “Does Pantawid deliver the intended results? The evidence says ‘yes.’ The Listahanan targeting system has steadily improved. The latest rigorous impact evaluation in 2014 shows Pantawid is on track to make children of poor families healthier and keep them in school for longer.

“Cash grants have helped to bring about near-universal enrollment of elementary-age children (6-11 years old). Pantawid mothers are more likely to seek pre- and postnatal care and deliver babies in health facilities. Child labor among participating households has decreased by an average of seven days per month.

“In 2014, Pantawid benefits were extended to high school students aged 15-18. This is an important measure, as the Philippines has a major gap in high school completion rates between children of the poorest income quintile and the richest. By 17 years of age, 9 out of 10 of the richest children have completed high school, compared with just 3 in 10 of the poorest. Early results show the enrollment rate for children aged 12-15 was 6 percentage points higher among Pantawid households than non-Pantawid ones.

“These evaluations are independently scrutinized. The evidence also shows that the grants do not encourage dependency; there is no evidence of a work disincentive among adults in Pantawid families. Self-rated poverty is lower by 7 percentage points. Also, Pantawid parents express more optimism about their children’s future.”

WB uses the impact evaluation surveys. A new World Bank report, “The State of Safety Nets,” that compares conditional cash transfers, unconditional cash transfers, school feeding programs, unconditional in-kind transfers, public works, and fee waivers, states: “CCTs are the best targeted programs, devoting as much as 50 percent of benefits to the poorest quintile in the case of the large-scale CCT programs in Latin America and 46 percent in the case of the more recently established programs (such as the Pantawid in the Philippines).”

Regarding Pantawid in particular, it says: “Pantawid Pamilya encourages the trial use of modern family planning methods. The program promotes facility based deliveries and access to professional postnatal care and improves children’s access to some key health services. Among Pantawid beneficiaries, about 9 in 10 households are covered by the PhilHealth health insurance program. The program keeps older children in school. Children (10-14 years old) in the program work seven fewer days a month than children not in the program. Pantawid Pamilya increases households’ investments in education and does not encourage dependency or spending more on vice goods, such as alcohol.” It cites A. Orbeta Jr., A. Abdon, M. del Mundo, M. Tutor, M.T. Valera, and D. Yarcia, “Keeping Children Healthy and in School/Evaluating the Pantawid Pamilya Using Regression Discontinuity Design/Second Wave Impact Evaluation Results,” World Bank, 2014.

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A case of bad reporting. Last Thursday’s front page heading, “WB: Gov’t cash doles cut drinking problem” (Inquirer, 7/16/15), was an awful mistake. The item, bylined Paolo G. Montecillo, said: “The CCT program, called the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), has led to a sharp decrease in alcoholism among the ranks of the poor, according to a new World Bank report” [my italics—MM]. Yet it repeated the last sentence of the WB paragraph above.

I think the mistake was due to a bad habit of looking for “news” rather than looking for facts. The fight against poverty deserves better.

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Contact [email protected]

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TAGS: Conditional Cash Transfer program, Pantawid Pamilya, Social Weather Stations
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