Icon Our WorkMis-labelled Cash Transfers

In our 12th Pathways Perspective, Nicholas Freeland, a Senior Social Policy Specialist, criticises a report written about a two-year pilot social protection scheme in Morocco.

The scheme was designed to see whether imposing conditions increased the educational impact of a cash transfer for children. While the research found that a conditional cash transfer had no greater impact than an unconditional one, for some strange reason the unconditional transfer became ‘mislabelled’. Read his thoughts. He does hope the authors reply to his questions.


  • I really enjoyed reading this piece, written in Nick Freeland’s usual ‘spade-outing’ style. As someone with long engagement in this sector, I have experienced and indeed struggled to resist the significant pressure to head down the conditionality route.

    The arguments in favour of conditions seem to be guided not by evidence, but by some normative framework that holds potential recipients as somehow suspicious, work-shy, ill-informed or unaware of what might be beneficial to themselves or their families. Men in particular have been reckoned to be particularly unlikely to “do the right thing”: in the discourse around social protection, poor men have long been the subject of unacceptable stereotyping by many commentators (irresponsible, will spend all the money on alcohol, not spend money on family needs etc). In this regard, I am very interested to see the lack of any effect in giving these Moroccan transfers to fathers or mothers.

    It would be very interesting to identify ANY sort of social payment that doesn’t contain some sort of messaging. I very much doubt that any serious distinction could be made between a UTC and an LTC. This would require an administration unconnected with any form of institution concerned with health, education, social welfare etc, and the absence of local committees or other source of messaging to explain why on earth the government would choose to drop money in your lap every month for no apparent reason!

    One such local committee in a remote part of Zambia told me that they had discussed the issue of conditionality themselves, having found the lack of conditions a bit of a surprise. They and the recipients had concluded that while there were no individual conditions, it was clear that the Government and partners were expecting improvements with regard to health, education, income generation etc. Without any results, they reasoned, the programme would eventually stop: a good assumption, in my view. Their response was to talk with recipients and make sure they did something useful with the money. What this says to me is that people’s decisions are already mediated by a range of factors, with social and local influences playing a significant part; UCTs exist in this context. It’s hard to imagine what an LTC would be that a UCT is not already.

    We have had quasi conditions before. One version in Zambia was the so-called soft condition that involved telling people that they would lose their benefit if the children didn’t go to school, but not implementing it. This was totally unethical, and fortunately came to an end. Why the desperate struggle for conditions in some guise?

    Last point, on a different issue – for those of you who have been involved in supporting social protection in Zambia – you may be happy to know that the Goverment has increased the budget for CTs sevenfold for 2014! That’s 700 percent! The lesson here is that consistent advocacy over time, decent evidence, objectivity and professionalism seem to have won broad support for the programmes. I think it was very much worth avoiding excessive scale up based on external funding, eventually achieving a nationally owned, driven, managed and funded programme.


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