Instant cash transfer model lessens financial burden during pandemic

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IDPoor Card holders are eligible for the programme. Photo supplied

A government-to-people cash transfer programme using digital platforms has benefited some 2.7 million people during the Covid-19 outbreak – testimony to how the Kingdom is successfully reaching out to vulnerable groups during this crisis.

The social assistance initiative providing money directly to poor households has proven successful, with some $322 million disbursed to 693,000 households over a one-year period – averaging $30 million per month.

Main agenda

“Our objective in this new cash transfer programme is to reduce the burden on poor and vulnerable households, and not to replace income lost during the pandemic.

“The package is designed for three groups – those in Phnom Penh, urban areas outside Phnom Penh and for people in rural areas.

“This is called a special social assistance programme as it is outside the regular assistance programme, mainly aimed at providing relief during the Covid-19 outbreak,” secretary-general of the National Social Protection Council under the Ministry of Economy and Finance Chan Narith told The Post.

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National Social Protection Council secretary-general Chan Narith. Hean Rangsey

The ministry launched the “Cash Transfer Programme for Poor and Vulnerable Households during Covid-19” as a relief measure in June last year to cushion the social-economic effects of the pandemic on IDPoor Card holders.

Around two-thirds of IDPoor-qualifying households suffered a 31 per cent drop in their incomes due to the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Households with IDPoor Card 1 and IDPoor Card 2, and people affected by Covid-19, including those who have lost jobs or income and could slip below the poverty level are eligible under the programme, said Narith.

The IDPoor Programme – the national poverty identification system established in 2006 by the Ministry of Planning – is an ongoing effort to reduce poverty and support socioeconomic development nationwide.

Methodology

Using existing government-run social assistance structures to reach out to vulnerable groups, devices such as tablets for quick registration and verification, and mobile payment systems to deliver money quickly, the ministries were able to roll out the programme efficiently, said Narith.

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Field workers use tablets to expedite the process of identifying those in need of financial assistance. Photo supplied

Field workers and officials involved in the project worked around the clock to identify vulnerable households needing assistance, not only based on their income, but on housing conditions, family assets and properties, and sources of income.

Once the households were identified and vetted by officers in villages and communes, money was then transferred directly from the National Treasury to the eligible recipients using Wing agents.

“We have had the poor household identification programme in place for the past 13 years, and social assistance programmes such as cash transfers for women and children under the age of two.

“When the new assistance was needed during the Covid outbreak, we fine-tuned the existing programme to make it more comprehensive and rolled it out. This is what social protection means for a country, to have the right structure ready, though ours was still at an infant stage.

“It is an unprecedented project rolled out countrywide with the collaboration of many ministries, including the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation.

“It really was a challenge – we had three weeks to identify the recipients for the programme. But the independent evaluation showed we achieved a 9.8 satisfactory score out of 10,” said Narith.

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The government’s efforts have meant cash has been delivered to recipients within minutes. Photo supplied

The cash transfer programme helped increase the expenditure level of each recipient to 87 per cent, otherwise their spending would have fallen during the lockdown period, he added.

“The money was mostly spent on food, healthcare and clothing, and some recipients even managed to save some of it,” said Narith.

Around 88 per cent of beneficiary households received their first benefits within the same month after their eligibility check.

The new method of delivering social security is proving a real success – swiftly identifying genuine recipients, while removing bottlenecks in the distribution of money and increasing the speed of doing so using digital delivery solutions.