Tag Archives: IPS

How social grants benefit children

There’s some interesting evidence of the impact of social grants, contained in an article by Kristin Palitza of IPS, looking at the recent increases in the social grants in South Africa, recently announced by Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan. The article focuses on the impact of the extension of the Child Support Grant to children up to the age of 18, as well as small increases in the size of that grant and the Old Age Pension.

But what is interesting is research highlighted by Josee Koch of the Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme as well as David Neves, from the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies of the University of the Western Cape. Koch and Neves refer to studies that show that, contrary to what some skeptics might say:

  • Social grants are an investment, not a waste of money: “For every Rand (0.13 dollars) you pay out in social grants, you gain three Rands (0.4 dollars) in local economy,” Koch is quoted as saying.
  • Social grants are used wisely by recipients: “Although concerns about the misuse of cash transfers keeps coming up, all our evidence suggests that it’s not true,” Neves says in Palitza’s piece. This is backed up by solid data. According to Koch as quoted in the article: “Children whose parents receive the CSG are on average two centimeters taller than those who do not.” This shows money is spent on food, not on alcohol or gambling.
  • And finally, the article points to research showing that social grants do not make people idle and lazy: “households that receive a pension have a 12 percent higher work participation rate, Koch explains, which points to the fact that cash transfers free up family members to look for work.”

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More food won’t necessarily wipe out hunger

The Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme (RHVP) has appealed to the World Food Programme to reconsider a food aid appeal recently issued for Malawi. The WFP issued the appeal, saying although Malawi has an overall national food surplus, half a million poor and vulnerable people will not be get enough food in coming months.

RHVP does not deny that nearly half of Malawi’s population is vulnerable to hunger. But it argues that the WFP should be looking at giving these people cash transfers, rather than food. RHVP argues that there is enough food in Malawi, that markets are functioning well, and that WFP itself has adopted policies in favour of cash transfers in appropriate circumstances.

In its Comment, RHVP’s argues that research shows that giving people cash has many benefits over providing just food, and that conditions in Malawi are ideal for cash transfers to work.

Related to this issue, as well as to our previous post on fertiliser subsidies vs cash transfers, IPS has an interesting article describing how farmers in Malawi are struggling — because there is an oversupply of food on the market. They are unable to get good prices for their produce because there is too much food, and too few buyers. It would be interesting to look into what impact the provision of food aid versus cash might have on markets, and thus on farmers like those quoted in the article.

The current edition of the American publication, The Nation, carries a very interesting feature recently on hunger in Africa. The article, by Raj Patel, Eric Holt-Jimenez and Annie Shattuck of Food First, critiques some agricultural policies in Africa, and particularly those followed by donors such as the Gates Foundation. They question the logic that says that hunger is the result of a shortage of food, arguing that “hunger isn’t a problem of production so much as one of distribution.”  They take a detailed look at Malawi, quoting scholars who believe that “fertilizer subsidies are ‘masking food security problems for the long term'”. There is plenty of food for thought here, for journalists interested in investigating further.

The International Policy Centre has issued a One Pager looking at whether conditional cash transfers (CCTs) help lessen the impact of the current economic crisis on the poor. the paper, by Fabio Veras Soares, argues that CCTs can be useful, but must be part of a broader, long-term social protection strategy.

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