Editorial: Safety nets

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

“CITY assures help should El Nino hit” read the headline in last Monday’s news regarding Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte saying that he will ensure no one goes hungry if what is being predicted as a Super El Nino will indeed develop this year.

“Before the damage is done, there has to be some measures to lessen the impact or minimize the damage. It’s always money. Money, money, money,” the mayor said saying that beyond just allocating funds, he is thinking of borrowing money or seeking assistance from some other sources.

Indeed, it’s all about money, but money invested for mitigating measures will surely go a longer way than just stop-gap measures addressing an emergency that is already here or just waiting in the wings.


This is where social safety nets come in. There is more to fund allocation for emergencies than calamity funds. Government, being both a legislating and implementing entity, can easily craft a program that will be there as a buoy for the most vulnerable sectors in fragile situations.

Social safety nets and their role in ensuring that the vulnerable sectors are able to fend for themselves have long been recognized as vital to a society’s well-being.

World Bank’s The State of Social Safety Nets 2014 report showed that worldwide, social safety nets are expanding but there is still a lot to be done to ensure that these reach the poorest.

The report noted that global social safety net coverage shows:

- In low-income countries, where 47 percent of the population is extremely poor, social safety nets cover less than 10 percent of the population.

- In lower-middle income countries, social safety nets reach about one-quarter of the extreme poor, but the remaining half a billion of the poorest people remain uncovered.

- The situation is best in upper-middle income countries, where about 45 percent of the extreme poor are covered by social safety nets.

Indeed, it’s all about money. But these are necessary investments that governments, both local and national, should put their money in to ensure that growth and development benefits all. It will also ensure that the people become better equipped to join the mainstream and development along with the country.

As it is now, there is still a very wide gap that has to be bridged to bring in the participation of the poorest toward the city’s development. They will expectedly become even less able to participate if their farmlands and fishing grounds will be made infertile by months of drought.

The thing with safety nets, however, is that these should be designed in such a way that the recipients have a role, a counterpart, in the program. It’s not just about receiving help, whether it be in health insurance benefits or cash-transfers. It should be about being entitled to this but having to do their part in order to get the assistance.

We hope the city council can come up with a good program for this, because providing for the poor is not just about making them line up to get free lugaw and relief goods.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 15, 2014.


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