‘But the buffalo fell sick and died’: Patterns of loan use for women’s self-help groups in rural North India
The University of British Columbia (Okanagan), Canada
In spite of numerous impact evaluation studies of microcredit, there is no consensus about its poverty reduction capacity. In part, this confusion is the result of a futile quest to construct a singular narrative of impact, whereas the focus should be on understanding the range of experiences in particular geographies and contexts. In this paper, I study the ways in which participants used their loans by drawing upon semi-structured interviews with 6 key informants and 46 women self-help group members to examine the poverty reduction potential of a microcredit bank-linkage program in rural North India. To conduct this study, I unpack the impact of duration of program participation on loan use, and examine pathways to productive loan use, an indicator which signifies poverty alleviation. More specifically, I ask the following questions:
1. Are members with longer durations of program participation more likely to use their loans for production?
2. In what ways is the pathway of loan use from subsistence to production disrupted and enabled?
Study results show that most respondents viewed microcredit as a mere addition to their repository of credit sources—that is, an additional resource which could be used to meet regular household expenses, and, occasionally, to avert or endure a household crisis. Although I did not find significant evidence of poverty alleviation among research participants, there were some long-run benefits of program participation. Program participation had a positive impact on the economic outcomes of respondent households: a) an increase in the capacity of respondents to use loans for second-order consumption with increasing lengths of time in the program, and b) an increase in the amount and frequency of available credit for consumption smoothing and tiding over crises, which can be productive in the long run.
Exploring experiences and outcomes associated with the Philippines’ conditional cash transfer program: An actor-oriented approach
1University of Waterloo, Canada; 2International Care Ministries, Philippines; 3University of Toronto, Canada; 4University of Victoria, Canada; 5De La Salle University, Philippines
In 2007, the Government of the Philippines piloted the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), which is a conditional cash transfer program (CCT) that has come to serve as the country’s main social protection strategy. More recently in 2019, new legislation was signed to institutionalize the 4Ps to ensure ongoing support for income poor households and to achieve human development objectives within the country. In the context of this newly institutionalized national social protection program, the objective of this study was to critically examine how the intervention practices and outcomes of the 4Ps are understood and experienced by both program beneficiaries and implementers. Guided by an actor-oriented approach, this study was conducted in and around Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, Philippines. In total, 36 semi-structured interviews were conducted with eligible 4Ps beneficiaries (14 current beneficiaries and 22 non-beneficiaries) across seven communities, in addition to nine semi-structured interviews with 4Ps implementers (staff of the Department of Social Welfare and Development) in two urban centres. Interviews revealed a gap between the understandings and experiences of beneficiaries and implementers with the enrollment, compliance, delivery, and outcomes of the 4Ps. These findings demonstrate how targeting mechanisms used to identify the ‘poorest of the poor’ may be poorly communicated or misunderstood by beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries of the 4Ps. Additionally, there was a disconnect between the discourse of ‘entitlement’ used by the state when promoting the 4Ps and beneficences experiences of the program in this way. Overall, this study identifies the tensions and trade-offs made when administering a large-scale CCT (e.g., consistency of implementation across the country versus enhancing the agency and awareness of beneficiaries), and considers how decisions made concerning these trade-offs inform the design of this social protection program and the lived experiences of both beneficiaries and implementers of the 4Ps.
The returns of the welfare state: Cash transfers and distributional politics in the pandemic age
London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom
In response to the significant job losses produced by the COVID-19 pandemic, states have drastically expanded social protections, primarily through cash transfer programs. The national dynamics of this expansion has been highly uneven, with some states introducing temporary measures aimed at offsetting sectoral unemployment while others have advanced universal measures directed toward all citizens. In sum, this represents the most significant expansion of social protection spending in decades, with lower income countries registering the greatest increases in spending. Drawing on James Ferguson’s notion of distributional politics, this paper analyzes the multiple meanings of this rapid expansion of the welfare state on a global scale and the political opportunities it provides. These interventions have generated wide-ranging political responses from below, often against the inadequacy of cash payments, corruption and mismanagement, and demands for a more expansive distribution of surplus in the form of a basic income. This paper asks whether this rapid expansion of welfare spending provides grounds for a more radical redistributive politics or simply reasserts the precepts of neoliberal governance that characterize mainstream development policy. Inspired by Achille Mbembe’s concept of necropolitics, it suggests that a developmental politics aimed at sustaining life must necessarily challenge the structural conditions which expose certain populations to premature death by advancing forms of decommodification and decolonization at multiple scales.