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  • Bolsa Família differentiated itself from other social programs as it became a central program of the administration and essentially the only national strategy to reduce poverty (1)
  • Earlier programs were based on the provision of services, not cash benefits; they were fragmented, centralized, inefficiency and had a large degree of clientelism   (2)
  • Constitution of 1988 established the social right (new politics of social assistance) – places importance on social security (not the insurance program); goal of universal and equal protection and amparo of family, mothers, children, teens, and the elderly y los carentes (3)
  • Bolsa Familia in comparison with other programs created significant changes in the institutional structure – it was significantly decentralized – supported in funding and personnel by states and municipalities (4)
  •  Brazil was later than its neighbors in implementing a poverty reduction policy – from 1980 t0 1994, the poor were lacking essentially any and all protection – with the exception of the Cruzado Plan (1986-1987), private sector reforms and stabilization plans were implemented without any accompaniment of compensating programs for the poor and vulnerable (5).  10 years later, however, conceptions of social justice finally took hold and allowed for a greater national focus on combating policy
  • It wasn’t until Cardoso’s second term that transfer programs directed at the poor were created – main changes after 2000 with the “Fundo de Combate a Pobreza”
  •  Education – motivating problem wasn’t access to schools (in the late 1990s, coverage was around 97%) but rather absenteeism,  high rates of repetition of the 4 first courses and the high drop out rates of the poor especially 12-15 year olds (8)
  •  In addition to improving school performance and health, the program sought to avoid child labor – both the fight against absolute poverty ad the investment in human capital and the incentive of social mobility (9)
  •  Bolsa escola: Significant increases in attendance were seen only in 5-6 year olds and 16-17 year olds; however the program excluded those without kids in school and street kids – problem in the design (13); Not improving the financial independence of families through regular work (13) – problem
  •  Bolsa Familia grew out of Lula’s Fome Zero program that fought against hunger (14) – has become the principal/leading program of the government’s social policy (15); began in October 2003 (15)
  •   “unificar la gestión, regularizar la ejecución y ampliar la cobertura de los programas de trasnferencia de dinero a las familias pobres” (16)
  •  integrated into Fome Zero: Bolsa Escola, Bolsa Alimentacao, Auxilio Gas (inherited from previous government) and Cartao Alimentacao created earlier under Lula; in 2005 the Program for the Eradication of Child Labor was incorporated
  • Decentralized organization, responsibility of municipalities as units of coordination (17)
  • Two groups – extremely poor and moderately poor – chart (19)
  • There does not exist a maximum time limit one can be part of the program for – can continue receiving benefits as long as the eligibility criteria and conditions are met
  •  All people in former programs were registered on the Catastro Unico
  • selection of families depends on meeting eligibility criteria, availability in the quotas and agreements formed between the federal government, states and municipalities
  •  The program has been criticized for not fostering activities that would permit families to get out of poverty – not until april 2006 have incentives been introduced to address this – complementary programs now exist in literacy and education of youth and adults, professional capacitacion, access to microcredit, community development, etc, (21)
  •  The cash transfer is paid through a magnetic card (21)
  •  Information included in the registry includes characteristics of home, family, schooling levels, profession qualifications, income, and spending (more info 22)
  •  Monitoring of eligibility criteria is done by periodic checks of the registry – there was an earlier period of lots of fraud – since 2005 there has been a special training to teach officials how to check for fraud; control of condition compliance is harder (obviously) 23
  •  In April 2006 – information about compliance with education and health conditionalities were finally transferred to municipalities – step towards transparency (23); still little to no social participation in the program (24)
  •  In May 2006 – 9,241 families, 35 million people, 78% of poor families and 100% of municipalities were covered (goal by December 11.2 families, 44.1 people)
  •  Around 15% of the all families receives some sort of benefit (8.5 million homes); half of all poor families have at least one family member receiving some sort of benefit – this number reaches 70% in poorer states (26)
  •  The North and Northeast regions have the highest levels of poor families covered by social program (27)
  •  The resources assigned to Bolsa Familia represent about 0.5% of Brazil’s GDP and 1.6% o its total social spending; in 2006 this was 8.3 million R or $4 million USD
  • About 1/5 of beneficiary families are receiving incorrect benefits from the program – bad targeting
  • Other say 14% of population (all of the extremely poor) is receiving 48% of the program’s resources – good targeting (29)
  •  Reduction of inequality the most notable result (31)
  •  Estimated that 1/3 of the reduction in inequality between 2001 and 2004 is due to government transfers – Bolsa Familia being one of them
  • Bolsa Familia alone has contributed a 14% reduction in inequality of income between families and a 27% reduction in the difference between the 20% richest and the 20% poorest (32)
  •  Reduction in severity of poverty greater than reducing the number of the poor (32)
  •  In 2005, less than 2% of students missed more than 15% of classes without justification (beneficiary students) (33)
  •  However the age group 7-14 was the group that presented the highest attendance levels prior to the incentives, however this is the group on which BF focuses (33); thus it’s a redundant stimulus
  • absenteeism more due to health issues and the condition of schools than the need to work (33)
  •  “los beneficios tienden a concentrarse justametne en la faja etaria que más asiste a la escuela, desatendiendo a los jóvenes que ya abandonaron el sistema educativo” (33)
  •   kids attending school but not participating in the complementary activities
  •  lack of goals and incentives to increase the quality of education and the learning (desempeño de los alumnos) of students
  • should establish a goal that 80% of first graders complete elementary education in 9 years, at the expected age (34)
  • 6-11 month year olds have a higher probability of malnutrition (62.1%) but they are nota addressed by the program (34)
  • However malnutrition in 1-3 year olds decreased 28.3% and 25.7% in 3-5 year olds
  • More than 75-87% of beneficiary families spend more that 75% of the cash transfer on food; 82.4% said the alimentación improved with the cash transfer (35)
  • Criticism that value of subsidy isn’t enough to convince families to not have their kids work (35)
  • inconclusive results on if subsidy reduces child labor – 40% of 16 year olds working, 20% of 14 year olds working; however in lowest income group those who receive the transfer are 10% less likely to have working children (35)

Challenges for the future:

–       about to reach coverage goal: how to expend – expand to a less poor group? Or increase it to those with kids outside of ages 7-14?

–       Still gaps in quality and dissemination of information; low transparency of the program (36)

–       Will Bolsa familia become an entrance point to the basic social protection system or will it remain only a mechanism, important as it is, limited to distributing money to poor groups? (37)

–       Main problem is services –  problem isn’t whether or not the conditions are met but rather the quality of the services – need goals such as the completion of elementary education, not just going to school

  • “el problema mayor está en la calidad y la adecuación de la prestación de los servicios, lo que inexorablemente requiere inversiones y programación de mediano plazo; lo que sin duda no es responsabilidad de Bolsa-Familia, pero que debe articularse con el programa, hasta porque constituye una condición para su éxito” (39)

–       Need to prevent indebted dependencies (39)

  • Question not just of entrance to the program but of leaving the program – related to the jobs market and skills-building programs and access to microcredit
  • Can affect expansion possibilities and adverse incentive not to work

Full text of the article here:  http://www.renda.nepp.unicamp.br/sistema/files/America_Latina/Draibe_Sonia_Bolsa_Escola_Bolsa_Familia_FLACSO_2006.pdf

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