A socio-economic evaluation of the government’s cash transfer programme for poor and vulnerable households during the fight against Covid-19 in 2020 and 2021 showed that it had significant positive impacts.

The project was lauded by its recipients, development partners, national and international civil society organisations (CSOs) and the general public, according to a joint press release by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, National Social Protection Council, UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Cambodia and the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh.

The July 27 press release said UNDP had co-organised a socio-economic evaluation of the implementation of the programme with the support of the Australian government. The evaluation aimed to understand the effectiveness and consequences of the programme at both the micro (household) and macro (economic) levels, both key inputs for formulating social protection system.

The release said the results of the evaluation showed that the programme had significant positive impacts across human development and socio-economic indicators including food security, children’s education, savings, debt repayments, productivity, healthcare and gender empowerment.

Macroeconomic modelling also suggested that the programme helped to stimulate gross domestic product (GDP) growth by 0.55 per cent in 2020 and 0.45 per cent in 2021. It reduced the poverty rate by 2.7 per cent in 2020 and by 3.4 per cent in 2021, while reducing the unemployment rate in both years, by 0.57 per cent and 0.62 per cent, respectively.

“The programme aims to support and facilitate the livelihood of more than 680,000 poor and vulnerable households with equity cards. Over the past 25 months, a total budget of $744 million has been hailed by recipients, development partners, national and international CSOs and general public,” it explained.

A couple hold their IDPoor card after receiving the government’s cash assistance for vulnerable households hit hard by Covid-19, in 2020. UNDP CAMBODIA

The cash transfer programme was launched on June 24, 2020, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Finance ministry secretary of state Phan Phalla said: “The programme was one of the interventions introduced by the government to mitigate the vulnerabilities of impoverished households. It embodies the Kingdom’s proactive response to the crisis of Covid-19.

“The results of this study not only illustrate the effectiveness and transparency of the programme implementation but also crystalise the role social assistance intervention played in improving their livelihoods and stimulating the economy.”

UNDP officer-in-charge Sonali Dayaratne said the evaluation presented clear scientific evidence that further investments in social protection can effectively support the most vulnerable and ensure no one is left behind.

“This evaluation allows us to better understand and see the impact and implications of the programme on the lives of poor and vulnerable households as well as macroeconomics,” she said.

Benita Chudleigh, first secretary of the Australian embassy, said: “As a neighbour and friend, Australia is committed to working with a broad range of partners to develop practical ways of improving the lives of all Cambodians.

“We congratulate the government of Cambodia for utilising the IDPoor database, which Australia helped to establish over the past decade, in order to target cash transfers to those most in need.”