World Bank approves $600-million loan for PHL 4Ps program


THE World Bank approved Wednesday a $600-million (P29 billion) loan to help the country fund its conditional cash transfer program for poor families.

In a statement Wednesday, the bank said the loan will support the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

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

The bank said the loan will also help the DSWD improve and fast-track the delivery of financial aid to beneficiaries via digital platforms.

It said the central bank will also help modernize the DSWD’s payment delivery systems and implement other programs that will promote financial inclusion.

“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,” Mr. Diop said.

The modernization program can also be used for other social protection programs of the government, according to Yoonyoung Cho, a senior economist and project task team leader at the World Bank.

She said the project is expected to help the DSWD have a greater impact on poverty alleviation through its social protection programs, set up a new unified beneficiary database for its programs, and integrate its database with the national ID system.

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

The World Bank has been providing financial assistance to the 4Ps over the last decade.

The conditional cash transfer program, launched in 2008, provides poor Filipino families with cash on the condition that they keep their children in school and subject themselves to health examinations.

The program has benefited more than four million families in 145 cities and 1,483 municipalities.

Excluding the recently-signed loan, the World Bank has extended $1.67 billion to the Philippines so far to help the government deal with the pandemic. — Beatrice M. Laforga

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