4M poor families to benefit from $600M WB loan

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    The World Bank has approved a $600-million loan for a project that seeks to help cushion the coronavirus disease 2019’s (COVID-19) impact on poor households in the Philippines, the Washington-based agency said in a statement yesterday.

    The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved the loan for the Philippines Beneficiary FIRST Social Protection Project to provide continuing support to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to implement the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and pursue Fast, Innovative, and Responsive Service Transformation (FIRST) for beneficiaries.

    The multilateral firm said at least four million families are expected to benefit from the project designed to protect the welfare of low-income households impacted by COVID-19 and enable government to harness digital tools to transform social protection delivery in the Philippines.

    “We are pleased to support the government’s efforts to sustain social protection for the poor and most vulnerable families,” said Ndiamé Diop, World Bank country director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.

    “These efforts are critical to ensure that their children can remain in school and stay healthy as the country takes measures to control this pandemic. In these difficult times, cash transfers to the poor and vulnerable indirectly support local economies and boost prospects for recovery,” he added.

    In addition, the project will support DSWD’s use of cutting-edge digital technologies and platforms to improve beneficiary experience in receiving transfers from the government, develop more efficient processes and systems, and enhance targeting mechanisms to maximize equity and impact.

    “Global experience shows that countries that have effective government-to-persons payments systems and a coherent approach to social protection beneficiary data management have been very effective in quickly and effectively cushioning the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic,” Diop said.

    Working with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the project also seeks to accelerate efforts to modernize DSWD’s payment delivery systems and promote financial literacy among beneficiaries, accelerating financial inclusion in the process.

    Yoonyoung Cho, senior economist and project task team leader, said in addition to 4Ps beneficiaries, modernizing the country’s social protection delivery systems will benefit more people enrolled in other social protection programs implemented by the government now and in the future.

    She added the project will position DSWD to have an even greater impact on alleviating poverty and to respond more effectively to future crises as part of an adaptive social safety net.

    Key outputs also include a new unified beneficiary database for DSWD programs and integration with the new national ID system (PhilSys) to allow beneficiaries to be verified and enrolled in a timely and reliable manner.

    “Shifting to the use of digital platforms and technologies for delivery of social protection programs and services is a high priority agenda of the government that we are excited to support,” Yoon said.

    “Together with the PhilSys that government is already expediting, activities in this project such as digital payments, robust targeting, and beneficiary data management will help make government’s social protection programs more efficient and adaptive,” she added. (A. Celis)