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Poverty-targeting, politics and a pension delivered – our year of resources reviewed


Our blog highlighting the extent of the IMF’s involvement in the decisions of sovereign nations topped the list of our most accessed resources in 2018. The list, which included materials on the politics of social protection schemes, implementing disability-inclusive social protection, and harnessing technology in programme registration, is revealed today in our review of the year.

There was huge controversy over the IMF’s involvement in the decisions of Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan over the poverty-targeting of child benefits, as revealed by our Senior Social Policy Specialist Stephen Kidd, which led to this being easily the most popular resource of 2018. We broke the story around the time questions were being raised about the IMF’s role in destabilising Iran. Stephen wrote: “There is the question of whether the IMF has exceeded its mandate… The IMF has meddled in internal social policy decisions which go well beyond its remit.”

Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan lose out in their struggle with the IMF over the targeting of child benefits

Stephen’s thought experiment on whether poverty-targeting is ‘pro-poor’ as is often claimed, or whether it in actual fact benefits the rich more, was our second most accessed resource (and most commented upon), followed by a curious tale of ‘the two lives of social protection’ by our Senior Associate Rasmus Schjoedt. Rasmus highlighted the different amounts of attention funders, researchers and the media give to ‘cash transfers’ and ‘social security’. The World Bank’s ‘magical use of evidence,’ meanwhile, on the latest ‘evidence’ on the benefits of poverty-targeting of social protection was our fourth most accessed resource.

The limits of using data in development were highlighted by an economist in our fifth most popular resource of 2018. Our Senior Social Policy Specialist Bjorn Gelders argued that while use of statistical models and machine learning has become omnipresent in recent years, “the problem is that algorithms can make troublingly unfair decisions”. Bjorn said that while robust data and statistics should play a critical role in decision-making, “let’s not trust machines too much, especially when deciding who has their right to social security fulfilled and who does not”.

The limits of using ‘Big Data’ for development – an economist writes

The sixth most popular resource, despite being published in 2017, was Exclusion by Design, by Stephen Kidd, Bjorn Gelders and Diloa Bailey-Athias, demonstrated the very high exclusion errors of proxy means tests. It continues to be referenced in high-level fora, including, recently, in a paper by Magdalena Sepulveda presented at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

The first of our major new series of publications launched in 2018 on disability and social protection was the next most accessed resource. This was a country report focusing on South Africa, which is making progress on including persons with disabilities in social protection, but has a number of issues to address to make its system disability-inclusive. It was launched as we attended the Global Summit on Disability, ahead of our own follow-up events in Nairobi and then London to share findings from the research for the U.K’s DFID on how to implement disability-inclusive social protection. As the year came to a close, DFID set out its first strategy aimed at achieving this.

Two more insights into the problems of poverty-targeting, the first on the particular problems of applying it in humanitarian contexts, the second on unfavourable findings of a World Bank evaluation in the Philippines, were the next most accessed resources. The tenth, by our Senior Associate Matthew Greenslade, struck a more optimistic note on the promise of a shift away from narrowly targeting social protection. Sharing the discussion in an IMF/LSE workshop, Matthew said the support for universalism in the room “felt significant, indeed a progressive moment. The key message was: we have to think about building a sustainable system… that will attract support and resources from the whole population”.

A progressive moment: Social protection’s rationale identified as citizenship, not charity at IMF/LSE event

The final two of our dozen most-accessed resources in 2018 had a firm focus on the implementation and delivery of social protection programmes, vital considerations for inclusive schemes. One, by Rasmus Schjoedt, was on when and how citizen engagement can improve social protection delivery, sharing insights from our research for DFID on social accountability and social protection. The other, by Richard Chirchir, was on how the Government of Kenya successfully harnessed technology to register half a million senior citizens for its new, inclusive social pension. We were pleased to have contributed.



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