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PHNOM PENH – Australia has contributed nearly $10 million over a decade to support the development of the ID-Poor registry system that helped poor and vulnerable Cambodians with cash aid during the pandemic.
“In partnership with (German aid program) GIZ Cambodia and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Australia has been proud to support the roll-out of this historic cash transfer program which has played an important role in reducing the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic for the most vulnerable Cambodians,” the Australian Embassy wrote on Aug 2 on its Facebook page.
On July 27, UNDP issued a report “Socioeconomic Impacts of the COVID-19 Cash Transfer Programme in Cambodia: Micro and Macro-Level Evaluations.” It assessed the effects on poor and vulnerable households.
The embassy said, “This evaluation clearly shows the important role cash transfers have played, including contributing to Cambodia’s GDP growth by up to 0.55% in 2020 and reducing the poverty rate by 3.4% in 2021.”
Produced by UNDP and the General Secretariat for the National Social Protection Council (GS-NSPC) with funding from the Government of Australia, the report employed micro and macro-level evaluations to assess the impact of the Cash Transfer Programme.
“As a neighbor and friend, Australia is committed to working with a broad range of partners to develop practical ways of improving the lives of all Cambodians,” embassy first secretary Benita Chudleigh said at the launch of the report.
The report found that the Cash Transfer Programme had significant positive impacts across human development dimensions and socioeconomic indicators including food security, children’s education, savings, debt repayments, productivity, healthcare and gender empowerment.
It helped to stimulate GDP growth by 0.55% in 2020 and 0.45% in 2021, reduce the poverty rate by 2.7% in 2020 and 3.4% in 2021, and reduce the unemployment rate by 0.57% in 2020 and 0.62% in 2021.
Launched in June 2020, the Cash Transfer Programme has provided free public services to more than 700,000 households.
More than 400 new households apply for the ID-Poor scheme every month but not all are accepted as some do not qualify, the report added.
Chorn Narith, Undersecretary of State of Economy Ministry and Secretary General of the National Council for Social Protection, said another 492 families were added to the database of the Cash Transfer Programme in June.
“The amount of money that the government has spent on providing financial support to poor and vulnerable families during the pandemic increased by more than $31 million per month, while the initial implementation was only $28-$29 million,” Narith said.
Some households were removed from the database because they had risen above the poverty line.
Narith said the program was due to end by September but the government will consider keeping it going until the end of the year because the pandemic is still affecting the economy and society.
“Since 2020, the programme has provided about $744 million, which has been praised by beneficiaries, development partners, national and international civil society organizations and the public,” Narith said.
Yong Kim Eng, president of the People's Centre for Development and Peace, said it had been expected that the number of poor households would increase during the pandemic, especially due to bankruptcy, sudden unemployment and work suspension.
“We have seen that some people who used to have a moderate livelihood were pushed to live in poverty because of the prolonged pandemic – from relative poverty to extreme poverty,” he said.
“Those who used to be at average became poor and those who were poor became even poorer.”
Kim Eng thinks the Cash Transfer Programme is a good initiative because – though it does not cover most expenses – it has helped poor households significantly to cope.
“Nevertheless, I think there should be an inspection and strict monitoring over the programme implementation to avoid corruption and inappropriate doings,” he said.