NEWS

Big Tick For Govt Cash Help

 The Government’s decision to give cash to families affected by Tropical Cyclone Winston has been vindicated. ABC’s Pacific Beat reports that a World Bank survey found that the decision was
22 Feb 2017 15:36
Big Tick For Govt Cash Help
Nataleira Village after severe Tropical Cyclone Winston.

 The Government’s decision to give cash to families affected by Tropical Cyclone Winston has been vindicated.

ABC’s Pacific Beat reports that a World Bank survey found that the decision was the correct one.

The World Bank studied the way Fiji used its social protection system to provide cash transfers to the most vulnerable households in the country.

Pacific Beat said: “90,000 people or 10 per cent of the total population were paid a lump sum of US$300 under the poverty benefits scheme to cover expenses for three months and 17,000 pensioners over the age of 68, through the Social Pension Scheme, received an additional US$150 one month after the cyclone hit.

“At the time, economists said it was a pump priming exercise designed to inject a lot of cash to keep the economy going,” the report said.

But the World Bank’s social protection economist, Jesse Doyle, said the money was used very efficiently for exactly the right reasons and this could be a useful lesson for disaster recovery efforts in other Pacific nations.

Mr Doyle said there was a level of concern by the Government that the money would not be spent properly.

“But what we found was that 99 per cent was spent on essential items and less one per cent was spent on kava, cigarettes and alcohol and so the household spent it on essential items they needed the most,” he said.

Mr Doyle said as part of the evaluation they looked at a number of areas like their ability to:

  •  rebuild their dwellings
  • recover in agriculture
  •  replenish their food stock, and across all category.

He said the cash injection of about $600 allowed them to repair much quicker in three months.

Mr Doyle said he could not say whether government-directed aid and overseas project-based aid or giving family money and working themselves out was more effective.

“I think it’s more important to factor, cash transfer has a role to play and what we have found from this evaluation is money has been used where it’s needed the most,” he said.

“But I think there will always be a role for project based aid for larger scale infrastructure and that type of investment, and really at the household level I think cash transfer is important.”

Mr Doyle said the food voucher scheme was an excellent policy for all those beneficiaries under the social protection programme.

He said as part of this food voucher they were eligible to buy certain number of items which were price controlled from the local supermarket.  So most were able to buy this core items regardless of some inflation caused by cash transfer.

Mr Doyle said $19.9 million was pumped into the economy and that inevitably had positive effects on business.

He said there were many lessons other countries could learn from Fiji.

“Fiji was really in unique position to respond because it already had social protection system in place. But many countries around the Pacific don’t have poverty target cash or social pension, so the lesson for other Pacific countries is really how they can build up this assistance so they are prepared when disaster hits basically to disperse payment through existing mechanism rather than having to build them after a disaster hits.”

There was concern by the Fijian Government that money wouldn’t be spend properly, but the study found that 99 per cent was spent on essential items and less than  one per cent was spent on kava, cigarettes, and alcohol, so households spent it on essential items they needed the most.

The study also found that households that received the assistance recovered faster that those that didn’t.

“As part of the evaluation, we looked at a number of areas, things like their ability in rebuilding their dwellings, recovery of agriculture land, were part of the category, “ said Mr Doyle.

Mr Doyle said the cash injection of about $600 Fijian allowed them to repair much quicker over the cause of three months.

The effective method of giving family money is not part of the evaluation but what the study found is money has been used where it’s needed the most.

“I think there will always be a role for project based aid for larger scale infrastructure but at the household level I think cash transfer is the important response,” he said.

Mr Doyle also mentioned that the excellent policy the Fijian Government had put in place for all those beneficiaries under the social protection programme on receiving food voucher.

“Household are eligible to buy certain number of items from the local supermarket and putting in place price control for this core items

“So most were able to buy this core items regardless of some inflation caused by cash transfer

Mr Doyle said though the study hasn’t covered the positive effect on the economy overall, about 19.9million Fijian dollars was pumped into the economy by this programs and that inevitably has positive effects for local businesses.

The pump priming exercise by Fiji in the wake of Cyclone Winston is a good example that many other Pacific island countries can follow.

“Fiji was really in a unique position to respond because it already had a social protection system in place,” said Mr Doyle.

Edited by Naisa Koroi


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