The Social Protection Flaw – or how not to win fiscal space for entitlements

The many disadvantages to poverty-targeted social protection include the fact that they never become entitlements that attract popular demand and the financial backing of governments, writes Nicholas Freeland, independent consultant, in our latest publication.

A step towards a society for everybody? Zambia is an example of a country that has invested in a donor-funded scheme - once experiments included more a small number of those deemed to be 'the poor'

A step towards a society for everybody? Zambia is an example of a country that has invested in a donor-funded scheme – once experiments included more a small number of those deemed to be ‘the poor’

The paper is published in the week that the UK Government emphasises the need for donors to support programmes that developing nations gradually start to deliver themselves, and points to evidence that inclusive schemes win backing of governments in a way that targeted schemes never do. The Guardian quoted the UK’s international development secretary Penny Mordaunt as saying she wanted to see governments “taking over completely” social protection systems following UK expenditure on cash transfers in their countries.

Freeland highlights examples of poverty-targeted schemes that have failed to win domestic investment and have had low impact, and of the contrasting story of inclusive schemes. He draws the attention of the sector to how politicians do not sit up and pay attention to donor-funded schemes that exclude the majority of populations, including many of those living in extreme poverty and most living in precarious circumstances who fall in and out of the category ‘the poor’.

Given this, Freeland’s paper therefore questions why the ‘social protection flaw’ of poverty-targeting continues to be promoted over social protection floors, which are designed to leave nobody behind. He writes: “What we are striving for, as social protection practitioners, is programmes that are based on entitlement, that generate increased domestic funding, and that maintain (or even raise) the value of their benefits to the poor and vulnerable over time. We are not going to get this from poverty-targeting. So please can we make a common resolution to promote only inclusive approaches in 2018?” You can view and download the publication by clicking here.

5 Responses to “The Social Protection Flaw – or how not to win fiscal space for entitlements”

    • Development Pathways Reply

      You are welcome! Evidence needs to be looked at carefully on what works, so happy to draw attention to evidence on the impacts of different approaches.

  1. Dominic Oyaya Reply

    Poverty targeting is done in developing economies with the hope that it will lift the poor out of poverty, but it has never succeeded. The other reason which is normally advanced is scarcity of national resources. Until governments will treat social protection as a serious investment then success will be very minimal. Poverty is relative and dynamic, it is never static. Comprehensively planned social protection program fully supported by national governments and Development partners should be the way to go

    • Development Pathways Reply

      Yes, you are right! The assumption that there is a fixed group called ‘the poor’ bedevils development. It means that the life cycle shocks the majority on low or modest incomes could face, children, illness, disability, and old age, will have an adverse impact on livelihoods and lives. Thankfully a number of nations, such as Kenya, and as Nicholas mentions, Lesotho and Zambia, are recognising this.

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