EDITORIAL - Cash doleouts like being astride a tiger

(The Freeman) - September 1, 2014 - 12:00am

The cash doleouts amounting to billions of pesos that government has been giving to the poor have not produced the results government naively expected from its folly. Despite the cash assistance, there are now even more poor people than before the assistance was given. More and more children are dropping out of school despite keeping them there being one of the requirements for the dole.

Clearly the program is not working and even government is aware of the failure. Not a few insiders are wanting a review. But whether the program gets reviewed or not, we do not believe the government, whether this one or the next ones that will follow it, will ever get around to scrapping it even if it wanted to. Embarking on such a foolhardy program was like getting on the back of a tiger -- there is no way anyone can get off without getting eaten live by the animal.

To be sure, it is always the duty and responsibility of government, any government, to take care of its constituents, poor or not, but most especially the poor and underprivileged. But social amelioration programs must come in practical and meaningful packages that are not only productive but also sustainable. Cash doleouts do not belong in this category. Wealthy countries may give cash doleouts, but only because they can afford to, and only on top of other basic services.

The Philippines is far from being wealthy. For it to throw away billions of pesos it can ill afford, and on top of what it has utterly failed to provide in terms of modern basic services, is sheer braggadocio on the part of government. It is plainly crazy for the 10th most corrupt country in the world to place billions of pesos ostensibly meant for the lowest and most powerless 70 percent of its 100 million population (10th in the world) in the hands of its corrupt officials.

The cash doleouts have not been used for the purpose for which they were given. Instead they have been used to further entrench a system of political patronage that is mainly responsible for why the poor will always remain poor in the first place. Worse, the doleouts have instilled in the poor an expectation that has become a dangerous social condition in our midst.

The few thousands of pesos that the poor have come to expect to receive every month can no longer be taken away from them without causing a riot. Even if the government sees the uselessness of its folly, it is left with no other recourse than to perpetuate the folly lest it face a revolution in its hands. And because the poor are growing in number, the cash doleouts will have to grow exponentially bigger for the same reason that it can no longer be withdrawn.

As the cash doleouts grow bigger to keep in step with the increasing number of poor people, it will start to eat into the other needs that government must address and fill. Once these other needs begin to feel the crunch, the government will have even bigger problems in its hands. Whoever gets to lead this country at crunch time will find leadership a most terrible thing indeed.

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