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Social Assistance in Developing Countries Database Version 5.0


  • Barrientos, Armando
  • Nino-Zarazua, Miguel


In this new version of the database we have included pilot social assistance programmes. A number of pilot cash transfer programmes have been introduced in Latin America, Asia and Africa in the last year or so, and a few more are in the design stage. Their scale and rationale suggest there is a good chance they will be scaled up in the near future. In theory, pilot social protection programmes should imply experimentation in the face of uncertainty regarding the way forward, but several of the pilots covered in the database, and many of those in the pipeline, represent instead a specific route to the extension of social protection, and as such they merit discussion. The main purpose of this brief note is to provide such discussion, and illuminate on this specific mode of development of social protection in developing countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, there are pilot cash transfers schemes in place in Kenya, Malawi, Ghana and Zambia; and in the implementation stage in Nigeria, Liberia, Uganda, and Tanzania. In Latin America, pilot programmes have been rolled out in Paraguay, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic. In South Asia, ’s Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction - Targeting the Ultra Poor programme is in fact a pilot programme, as as is Pakistan’s Child Support programme. Why the high number of pilots? In the context of technocratic models of policy making, pilot programmes would make a great deal of sense if policy makers are uncertain of the feasibility and likely impact effectiveness of interventions. Before introducing innovative, complex, and costly interventions, sensible policy makers would recommend testing the interventions in a small scale experiment. Knowledge from the delivery and impact of the interventions could then inform the desirability and design of a scaled up programme. There is a sense in which the social protection pilot programmes referred to above, and described in the database, do not fit fully into this description. We have accumulated a large body of evidence and knowledge about the design, delivery, and impact of cash transfer schemes in Latin America to be reasonably confident that, adequately designed, they can achieve their short term objectives. Why is further testing necessary? The strongest available evidence on cash transfer programmes comes from middle income countries in Latin America, Mexico’s Progresa/Oportunidades, and to a lesser extent Brazil’s Bolsa Escola/Familia. Naturally, questions remain over whether similar programmes can work in other environments. Would cash transfer schemes work in Africa? Would they work in low income countries in Latin America? Low income countries have higher incidence of poverty; lower capacity in terms of designing, delivering, and evaluating transfers schemes; and less developed administrative and financial systems. It makes sense to check whether cash transfers are appropriate and effective in these, more adverse, environments. Even then, fewer pilots would still deliver answers to our questions. We know from the Zambia Kalomo Social Transfer Pilot Scheme that cash transfers are feasible and effective in low income countries, providing that technical support is available and community selection of beneficiaries is feasible. The spread of pilot social assistance schemes is also explained by domestic policy processes and funding modalities. In countries where policy makers, and perhaps civil society, are reluctant to innovate, pilots provide an opportunity to enable learning from new approaches to poverty and vulnerability. It also provides a well defined time frame in which donors could use existing funding modalities to support the extension of social protection. DFID, for example, is committed to shifting focus from emergency aid to regular forms of support in Africa. In Latin America, IADB support for social protection initiatives normally extends for periods of up to five years. Given the time frame of available international aid , the expectations are that pilot schemes could be instrumental in building learning and support for social protection among domestic policy makers, that they would have strong ‘demonstration effects’. Risks and opportunities There are significant risks with this strategy, and even more significant opportunities. The risks are to do with pilots failing to generate the expected ‘demonstration effects’, and with changes in international economic conditions that shift attention to other problems. The opportunities could potentially be very significant, successful pilot transfer schemes could mark the beginnings of a process leading to the implementation of effective anti-poverty programmes at a scale capable of making a large dent on global poverty. Paying attention to the design of pilots and to associated policy processes could help minimise these risks and maximise opportunities. Designing pilot social assistance programmes as if they are a first phase of a fully scaled up programme is essential. This involves avoiding short cuts in the pilot stage, and making the necessary investment in information systems, delivery institutions, and beneficiary selection. These set up costs can be substantial. Process considerations are important in ensuring the pilots are part of national social protection strategies, and involve a wide range of stakeholders. It is vitally important that pilots achieve a good balance of design and process considerations. As much else in development policy, pilot social transfers are as much about politics as they are about the economic and technical issues of poverty reduction.

Suggested Citation

  • Barrientos, Armando & Nino-Zarazua, Miguel, 2010. "Social Assistance in Developing Countries Database Version 5.0," MPRA Paper 20001, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:20001

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Barrientos, Armando, 2012. "Social Transfers and Growth: What Do We Know? What Do We Need to Find Out?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 11-20.
    2. Paola Pena & Joaquin A. Urrego & Juan M. Villa, 2015. "Civil Conflict and Antipoverty Programmes: Effects on Demobilisation," DOCUMENTOS DE TRABAJO CIEF 012748, UNIVERSIDAD EAFIT.
    3. cyrine hannafi & Christophe Muller, 2016. "The Poverty-Economic Growth-Health Triangle," EcoMod2016 9587, EcoMod.
    4. Addison Tony & Niño-Zarazúa Miguel & Singhal Saurabh & Gisselquist Rachel M., 2015. "Needs vs expediency: Poverty reduction and social development in post-conflict countries," WIDER Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    5. Andrews, Colin & Das, Maitreyi & Elder, John & Ovadiya, Mirey & Zampaglione, Giuseppe, 2012. "Social protection in low income countries and fragile situations : challenges and future directions," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 67607, The World Bank.
    6. Grünewald, Aline, 2014. "Social security around the world: A review of datasets," Working papers of the ZeS 03/2014, University of Bremen, Centre for Social Policy Research (ZeS).
    7. Franziska Gassmann & Cecile Cherrier & Andrés Mideros Mora & Pierre Mohnen, 2013. "Making the Investment Case for Social Protection: Methodological challenges with lessons learnt from a recent study in Cambodia," Papers inwopa694, Innocenti Working Papers.
    8. Armando Barrientos, 2015. "Is There a Role for Social Pensions in Asia?," Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 2(1), pages 8-20, January.
    9. Barrientos Armando & Villa Juan Miguel, 2015. "Evaluating Antipoverty Transfer Programmes in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Better Policies? Better Politics?," Journal of Globalization and Development, De Gruyter, vol. 6(1), pages 147-179, June.
    10. Kaisa Alavuotunki & Mika Haapanen & Jukka Pirttilä, 2017. "The Consequences of the Value-Added Tax on Inequality," CESifo Working Paper Series 6318, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Barrientos, Armando & Byrne, Jasmina & Peña, Paola & Villa, Juan Miguel, 2014. "Social transfers and child protection in the South," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 47(P2), pages 105-112.
    12. Bosch, Mariano & Manacorda, Marco, 2012. "Social policies and labor market outcomes in Latin America and the Caribbean: a review of the existing evidence," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 58003, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    13. Armando Barrientos, 2016. "Inequality, Poverty, and Antipoverty Transfers," Working Papers id:11190, eSocialSciences.
    14. Gentilini,Ugo, 2015. "Entering the city : emerging evidence and practices with safety nets in urban areas," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 98253, The World Bank.
    15. Tommy Ferrarini & Kenneth Nelson & Joakim Palme, 2015. "Levels and Targeting of Social Benefits in Global Perspective: Combatting Poverty through Social Policy," LIS Working papers 647, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    16. Niño-Zarazúa, Miguel & Barrientos, Armando & Hickey, Samuel & Hulme, David, 2012. "Social Protection in Sub-Saharan Africa: Getting the Politics Right," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 163-176.
    17. Stampini, Marco & Tornarolli, Leopoldo, 2012. "The Growth of Conditional Cash Transfers in Latin America and the Caribbean: Did They Go Too Far?," IZA Policy Papers 49, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    18. Barrientos, Armando & Niño-Zarazúa, Miguel, 2011. "Social transfers and chronic poverty: objectives, design, reach and impact," MPRA Paper 30465, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. Armando Barrientos & Sony Pellissery, 2012. "Delivering effective social assistance: does politics matter?," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series esid-009-12, GDI, The University of Manchester.
    20. Paola Pena, 2014. "The Politics of the diffusion of Conditional Cash Transfers in Latin America," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series 20114, GDI, The University of Manchester.
    21. Armando Barrientos & Jasmina Byrne & Juan Miguel Villa & Paola Peña, 2013. "Social Transfers and Child Protection," Papers inwopa691, Innocenti Working Papers.

    More about this item


    Social Protection; developing countries; Conditional Cash Transfers; Social Pensions; Workfare Programmes; database;

    JEL classification:

    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • H5 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs

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