Manila, 5 August, 2016—Government representatives, policymakers, researchers and practitioners participated in the Asia-Pacific Social Protection Week (APSP 2016) to discuss recent issues affecting social protection in developing economies, showcasing success stories from countries with advanced social protection systems. The APSP 2016 was organised by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), taking place in Manila, Philippines, from 1-5 August.
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Day 5 of the APSP Week
Session 16 (part 1)
Moving the Agenda Forward to achieve Sustainable, Efficient, and Equitable Social Protection Systems
Moderator: Ayako Inagaki (Director, SEHS, SERD, ADB)
The final day of the week-long conference commenced with parallel group presentations based on the previous afternoon’s cross-sectoral working group discussions, dedicated to identifying priority actions for sustainable, efficient and equitable social protection. Each working group presented their key findings in bullet point format followed by reactions from a panel of experts. A panel was allocated to part 1 and 2 of the afternoon's presentations.
Panel of experts:
1) Armando Barrientos, (Professor of Poverty and Social Justice, University of Manchester)
2) Frances Lund (Senior Adviser, Social Protection Programme, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing—WIEGO))
3) T. Koshy (Partner, Ernst and Young)
Group 1: Sustainable Financing of Social Protection:
Ana Alania (Adviser, Macroeconomic Analysis and Forecasting Department, Ministry of Finance, Georgia) presented on Group 1’s findings:
- Political will
- Design resource mobilisation into policy design
- Widen and deepen tax base to explicitly finance social protection
- Extra government engagement to supplement government finances
Mr. Barrientos commented on the need to look carefully at consumption taxes ,as there are two potential drawbacks. First, they impact lower income families and second, poor families paying consumption taxes are entitled to a corresponding fiscal representation of their contribution. Ms. Lund echoed this sentiment. He went on to emphasise the need to widen and deepen the tax base, similar to the approach of high income countries, where social services comprise 30 percent of GDP in some. Koshy mentioned the pressure faced by governments regarding tax revenue allocation, which is often dictated by the strength of voice of civil society. Seeking alternate sources of revenue was also mentioned as important, such as CSO and corporate financing.
Group 2: Improving Delivery and Governance of Social Protection
Chowdhury Md. Babul Hassan (Secretary, Ministry of Social Welfare, Bangladesh) presented on Group 2’s findings:
- Inclusive policy frameworks
- The policy framework should be institutionalised
- Transitioning from passive social assistance to active social programmes
- Aligning agencies with social protection programmes that are responsible for shocks
Ms. Lund endorsed the group’s concern over the fragmentation of services and the implications of merging programmes’ monitoring and information systems. There should be an active focus on integrating formal and informal workers at the beginning of programme policy implementation and reform, avoiding mere token participation later in the process. Political will and budget are not enough to ensure success, officials on the ground are needed with an intimate understanding of the policy. Koshy reiterated this sentiment, stating that effective long-term leadership is required to champion reforms successfully. Barrientos went on to say that implementation represents 70 per cent of programme success. There is a need to consider the institutionalisation of social protection as implementation is often hampered by short-term visions. Monitoring and evaluation are equally important, allowing for a knowledge base to be built to suppport informed policy development and reform.
Group 3: ICT Investments for Social Protection
Mr. Arvind Kumar presented on Group 3’s findings:
- Enabling technological infrastructure for effective service delivery, whether falling under social security services or not
- Building a national identity database to identify beneficiaries for effective targeting
- Benchmarking and performance evaluation
- Transparent resource allocation
- Effective targeting and coverage
- Monitoring and evaluation
- Including diverse stakeholders in implementation
Mr.Koshy noted that technology vendors should not be dictating the nature of ICT investments simply because policymakers and civil society fail to educate themselves on technology. There is only a digital divide if there is an absence of participation in the ICT discussion.
Session 16 (Part 2):
Moving the Agenda Forward to achieve Sustainable, Efficient, and Equitable Social Protection
Moderator: Ms. Yukiko Ito (Social Development Specialist, ADB)
Panel of experts:
1) Mr. Nuno de Cunha (ILO Chief Technical Advisor for Social Protection)
2) Mr. Daniel Horn (Economic Adviser, HelpAge International)
Group 4: Better Monitoring Social Protection Programmes
Ms. Oyunchimeg Dandar (Head, National Statistical Office, Mongolia) presented on Group 4’s findings:
- Set goals, targets and guidelines
- Link with social protection related SDG indicators
- Establish a responsible institution for monitoring to realise an integrated system
- Build awareness and capacity for collecting and processing data
- Allocate government budget for monitoring
- Promote and disseminate data to improve systems
- Involve development partners and civil society in executing and monitoring
Mr Nuno de Cunha (ILO Chief Technical Advisor for Social Protection) advanced that monitoring is essential in dispelling the myth that cash transfer generates laziness and dependency among beneficiaries. Data is the most powerful tool of convincing sceptical policymakers and fostering political will. Likewise, data in support of social protection needs to be promoted and disseminated by governments. The weight of this message will depend on the credibility of data, highlighting the crucial role of monitoring in influencing the policy agenda. Data also plays an essential role from a technical perspective, by facilitating planning for sustainable social protection systems. Governments should be mindful of the fact that it is the people who generate tax revenue, therefore there needs to be transparency in the way these funds are used. This requires capacity and technology in gathering data concerning the services paid for by the population, to keep the social contract with governments alive. Reform and the pursuit of new policies is an opportunity for improvement. Mr. Horn went on to note that targeting is by nature an imperfect science, therefore the focus should be on determining targeting gaps.
Group 5: Promoting Social Protection for Older People
Zafar Hasan (Additional Secretary, Ministry of Planning Development and Reform, Pakistan) presented on Group 5’s findings:
- Develop and promote sustainable social protection based on situation analysis
- Guarantee cash assistance and income security for the elderly
- Develop long-term care systems and service delivery systems
- Ensure that the elderly poor are covered by the healthcare system
- Promote and respect active aging and social and economic empowerment for elderly people
Mr. Horn noted that social protection for the elderly has impacts on the broader population, especially women who take on care responsibilities in countries lacking protection, leading to ramifications for the economy at large. He also mentioned flexible-retirement as an important issue.
Partners in Progress—Recommendations for Expanding Social Protection in Asia and the Pacific
Moderator: Bart Édes (Director, SDGG, SDCC)
The final session of the week featured concluding recommendations from a representative of each stakeholder group. Representing the government, Ms. Erlinda Capones (National Economic Development Authority, Philippines) submitted that it is a duty to implement and expand social protection systems in light of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) agenda. On behalf of development organisations, Tomoko Nishimoto (Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Asia-Pacific, ILO) noted that establishing social protection in the Asia-Pacific region remains a considerable challenge, on account of the striking and deepening inequalities in the region. Social protection will ensure no one is left behind. Representing the youth, Ms. Vanessa Rodie (Youth Initiative, Solomon Islands) gave five recommendations: ensuring adequate education for youth on the social protection services are available to them; the involvement of the private sector in identifying and catering to skills needed for youth employment; encouraging youth entrepreneurship; inclusive policy frameworks and a sense of youth ownership for policies that affect their well-being. Mr Sanjay Shah (Hello Paisa, Nepal) then spoke on behalf of the private sector, emphasising the incorporation of an inclusive approach to accommodate social protection in business plans. Ms Gisele Yasmeen (WIEGO) thanked the ADB for including civil society in the week’s discussions.
Mr Bart Edes (Director for Social Development, Governance and Gender Division, Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department, ADB) gave the final remarks, bringing the week’s discussion to an official close. He acknowledged that despite the impressive progress that has been made in the Asia-Pacific region, much work still needs to be done to achieve inclusive growth, a key pillar of the ADB. Social Development Goal 1—to end poverty in all its forms everywhere—is the focus, which social protection is crucial in realising, rallying participants to make this agenda a reality.
We invite you to continue reading the full coverage of the event here:
- Day 1 of the APSP Week
- Day 2 of the APSP Week
- Day 3 of the APSP Week
- Day 4 of the APSP Week
All article and photos by Ashleigh Kate Slingsby