Pensheni Kwa Wote! Building the Social Protection Floor for Older Persons in Kenya

The 31st of March 2017 marked a great step forward for Kenya with the announcement of a social pension for all older persons. Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich – the Minister of Finance – presented the 2017/18 Budget to both Houses of Parliament which included measures to address poverty through social protection.

The most eye-catching part of his announcement ...

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Rationing, not targeting

“Will no-one rid me of this troublesome PMT?”[i]

Anyone who has worked in social protection knows that the thorniest issue of all is that of “targeting”. The recent polemics on these pages about the inadequacy of the Proxy Means Test (PMT) as a “targeting” mechanism (including my last blog post: Poxy Means Testing: it’s Official!) have raised the more fundamental question of whether it is in ...

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Poxy Means Testing: it’s Official!

(“A prox on both your houses”)[i]

The World Bank has recently – and some would say belatedly – undertaken a critical review of the Proxy Means Test (PMT)[ii], the approach to targeting that it has been advocating, uncritically, for the past decade.

The results are astonishing. Disguised beneath a splendidly econometric veneer, the raw findings that emerge demonstrate that the PMT is a wholly ...

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Poxy Means Testing

PMT is a curse! Sisters, you all know that: inescapable, debilitating, emotionally draining, a regular cause of extreme irritability!

But I refer here not to Pre-Menstrual Tension, but rather to a new form of PMT that is sweeping the globe: Proxy Means Testing.

This variant of PMT is a method of selecting poor people to become beneficiaries of social transfer programmes, currently being advocated strongly by, among others, my good ...

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MPs in Uganda make case for universal social protection programme

When discussing the governance of social protection in developing countries, we usually focus on the Executive Branch institutions and their role in policy development – as well as the design, implementation and monitoring of schemes – but pay little attention to the role of Parliaments. Nonetheless, as part of their key legislative, oversight and representative functions running across the policy-making process,

Parliaments have a key role in advancing the social ...

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Why India is right to consider a universal basic income

The concept of a universal basic income is, somewhat surprisingly, receiving renewed attention from the Indian government. In recent interviews, the government’s Chief Economic Advisor, Dr. Arvind Subramanian, has called it an idea that ‘has a lot of promise.’ According to Dr. Subramanian, the next Economic Survey – an important document that outlines the government of India’s policy ...

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What is the Future of Bolsa Família?

Bolsa Família is often promoted as a model of good practice for social protection programmes in the developing world. As a Brazilian, in the short period of time that I’ve worked on international social protection, I’ve been surprised by how famous Bolsa Família is around the world and how it has inspired similar programmes around the world. But, despite its great reputation internationally, in Brazil it is nowhere near as ...

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Universal social protection: the ILO attempt, once more, to persuade the World Bank to commit to inclusivity and the right to social security for all

On Wednesday 21st September 2016, we heard the apparently joyous news that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and World Bank had launched the Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection which “aims to make pensions, maternity, disability and child benefits, among others, available to all persons.” Does this send hope to developing countries that the World Bank is ...

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Latin America Must Continue to Make Progress Towards Universal Social Protection

During much of Latin America’s history, large sectors of the population have been completely left out of any form of social protection by the State, be they urban informal workers, rural populations, afro-descendants or indigenous communities. However, in a recent ECLAC book titled “Towards universal social ...

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Tackling Mental Health: a FundaMental starting point

Everyone’s talking about mental health – particularly its effect on the world’s poorest countries. But what do we do about it? Where do we start? Jessica Mackenzie suggests four crucial steps.

Finally, mental health seems to be getting some much-needed attention. From almost weekly articles online to Academy Award-winning films mental ...

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How Uber challenges social protection systems

Uber has, in a very short time, grown to be immensely popular in many countries, including the UK. And, from the individual consumer’s perspective it’s not hard to see why: the company provides the same service as traditional taxis, only much cheaper and easier. No need to wait on the phone or in the rain for a taxi: you simply order and pay on your phone.

In the short-run, Uber ...

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A new dawn for social protection: a proposal to transform all social security programmes into conditional cash transfers

At Development Pathways, we like to please everyone. Recently, we’ve become particularly concerned by the continuing desire of many people to sanction poor and vulnerable families through the use of punitive conditions, despite the absolute lack of evidence of any added value from their use. So we’ve been racking our brains to find a way to help them expand conditional cash transfers to all corners ...

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An overview of Kenya’s Single Registry Model

The launch of Kenya’s Single Registry scheme marks a major step forward in the management and monitoring of social protection in low and middle-income countries. The Registry has enabled the government of Kenya to link together the Management Information Systems (MISs) of five social security schemes (the Old Age Grant, Disability Benefit, Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s Cash Transfer, Hunger Safety Net programme, and World Food Programme’s (WFP) Cash for Assets ...

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Cash transfers on the rise as an emergency response in the Pacific

Despite increasing evidence of their value, the use of cash transfers in emergencies is still limited. ODI’s Paul Harvey estimated in a recent article in the Guardian, as well as a guest piece on Duncan Green’s ‘From Poverty to Power’ blog, ...

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“Progress Can Kill”

‘What kind of development is it when the people lead shorter lives than before?’

Roy Sesana, Bushman, Botswana


It’s time to rethink what “development” and “progress” mean. It’s becoming increasingly clear that development cannot be a one-size-fits all process. Too often, a blueprint is forced upon people even if it is not one that they themselves want. Development must be about more than economic growth, encompassing a full ...

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Lessons to Be Learned: International Interventions in Timor-Leste

The time has come to learn from international interventions in Timor-Leste: Political economy and conflict analyses must be applied in support of countries in transition.


Sitting at a long table in a quiet pedestrian street soaking in the Portuguese sunshine, I recently caught up with a former colleague who was in town from Myanmar for a short holiday. I was eager to speak with him and hoped he would challenge ...

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Reasons why technology cannot ‘transform’ India’s fight against poverty

In a widely shared NYT column Transforming the fight against poverty in India, Siddharth George (Doctoral candidate at Harvard) and Arvind Subramanian (Chief Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance in India) make a compelling, if technocratic, argument to back their optimism that the seamless integration of technology solutions (the JAM trinity – financial inclusion through Jan ...

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Africa Must Improve Its Social Services

The African welfare state and how it distributes resources is an interesting point of analysis. While some people see an all-inclusive welfare state structure, others see a system that overwhelmingly favors an economic elite. I belong to this latter group.

Most African countries lack a coherent welfare state structure, and only a privileged minority benefit from the provisions of a welfare ...

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Urgent: World Bank safety net needed

Beginning in the early 1980s, the World Bank (with the International Monetary Fund) foisted structural adjustment programmes on a variety of poor countries around the developing world. These programmes, based on the forced application of new ideologies of liberalisation and privatisation, led to massive unemployment, human misery and deprivation. Jobs were lost in government service (which had to be shrunk drastically), in state marketing boards (as trade was ...

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Georgia introduces a new child benefit, strengthening its commitment to an inclusive lifecycle approach to social security

In May 2015, Georgia introduced a major change to its social security system, establishing a child benefit for the poorest 35% of children aged up to 16 years of age nationwide, around 260,000 in total. Georgia already leads the way among developing countries with regard to tax-financed social security, investing over 6% of GDP in social transfers. It implements a highly successful universal old age pension for 680,000 people, which ...

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