Tajikistan’s pension system and assistance programs are not effective tools to reduce poverty

13/12/2013 09:50
Payrav Chorshanbiyev
Views: 13267

DUSHANBE, December 13, 2013, Asia-Plus -- World Bank's Tajikistan Partnership Program Snapshot that was published in October this year notes that the Government of Tajikistan’s system of social protection consists mainly of the pension system and assistance programs that are not effective tools to reduce poverty.  This is partly because of the small size of social assistance benefits (the lowest per capita budget in the Europe and Central Asia [ECA] region) and partly because the benefits usually do not reach the poorest families.  The current system lacks effective mechanisms for targeting, financial control, auditing, and monitoring.

The Government is reportedly addressing this through a step-by-step reform of social assistance.  To support the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, the World Bank mobilized a US$2.2 million grant to the Government from the Rapid Social Response Multi-Donor Trust Fund to support the pilot and evaluate the efficiency of targeting benefits to the poorest citizens.  The Bank has also provided an IDA grant of US$3.2 million to support the development and implementation of a national electronic registry for social assistance and capacity building for the national rollout of the consolidated and poverty-targeted social assistance benefit.

According to the report, the Government’s first step in the reform was to launch a pilot program in Yovon and Istravshan districts in January 2011 to deliver a consolidated social assistance benefit to the poorest 20 percent of households in Tajikistan.  The EU and the World Bank cooperated with the Government to support this pilot, which consolidated the two largest social assistance programs into a single benefit, targeted to the poorest 20 percent of the population.  Moreover, the pilot tested the scoring formula (proxy-means test) proposed in the World Bank report, “Delivering Social Assistance to the Poorest Households.”  The proxy-means test is based on indicators of well-being that are correlated significantly with poverty in Tajikistan.

The report notes that an in-depth evaluation study found that the pilot performed better than the standard government social assistance programs.  The proxy-means test formula was more than twice as effective in identifying poor households as the present method, and the test can be improved further by using newly collected 2012 national survey data and by adjusting the scores for key vulnerable groups.  A significant proportion of the poorest households did not apply, so the main areas for improvement are in communication campaigns and outreach to poor households through community structures.

Given this, the Government of Tajikistan expanded the pilot of targeted social assistance from two to 10 districts in 2013, the report said, noting that the World Bank is continuing to provide financial support and technical assistance to this effort through the Rapid Social Response Grant and the IDA grant for the Social Safety Net Strengthening Project.

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