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Call to switch development funds from low-impact ‘poor relief’ to effective investment


Oxfam from Poverty to Power blog

29th March 2018: Criticism in the UK media that the Government is exporting a welfare system for the poor to developing countries through financing cash transfer schemes should not be dismissed out of hand.

This is the claim of Stephen Kidd, CEO of Development Pathways, in a new blog published by Oxfam this week following criticism over cash transfers in the UK newspaper The Daily Mail. In it, the Senior Social Policy Specialist agrees that the type of ‘welfare system’ many donors put funds into “bears all the hallmarks of poor relief, a primitive form of welfare implemented by many developing countries…when democracy was weak,” with low impacts and low support.

He argues that as democracy strengthened, “poor relief was increasingly opposed by most of the population – including the main taxpayers – and, instead, countries began building modern social security systems”.

“Old age pensions, disability benefits and child benefits received strong support, not only because they effectively reached the ‘poor,’ but because they also offered all citizens access to social security at the times in their lives when they most needed it.” He concludes that building universal schemes, rather than imposing ‘poor relief,’ would ensure more effective social security systems – and highlights the positive role of the UK’s Department for International Development in supporting the piloting of a Senior Citizens’ Grant in Uganda.

In another development, a new Bretton Woods Project paper, also authored by Stephen Kidd, throws into the spotlight how the IMF and the World Bank in promoting targeted as opposed to inclusive social protection.

Stephen Kidd’s interventions come after the UK’s International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt in January supported DFID helping “to build the public systems countries need to look after their people”. To read the blog, click here.