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Strengthening and scaling up of the social protection system - Part 1

UNICEF Mozambique
© UNICEF Mozambique
More than 80 per cent of the Mozambican population survives on less than one USD a day.

MAPUTO, Mozambique, 5 September 2011

Significant strides have recently been achieved in the area of social protection in Mozambique. Approval of the Regulation for Basic Social Security in December 2009 and the National Strategy for Basic Social Security (ENBSS) in April 2010 are essential milestones. Despite policy advancements, a lack of political buy-in around social protection persists. In response, UNICEF is working towards the development of strategic social protection policies, particularly through the UN’s Social Protection Floor Initiative. This includes participation in the UN joint technical support to the Ministry of Women and Social Action (MMAS) to undertake economic modeling on the costs of various social policy options. These efforts have strengthened MMAS’s position to petition for expansion of the existing cash transfer programme to the Council of Ministers. It will result in the scaling-up of the monthly transfer amount as well as inclusion of additional vulnerable groups in the cash transfer programme, including child-headed households and orphans and vulnerable children. The application of the costing model has also deterred the potential scale-up of unsustainable and regressive measures around fuel and food subsidies that were proposed in early 2011. The strong partnerships built over time in this process, with key Government ministries, UN partners and donors have proved invaluable as opportunities for high level advocacy emerged as a result of the economic crisis.

The value added of this initiative relates to the applicability of the costing model to deter government investment in an inefficient food and fuel subsidy and towards consideration of other social protection programmes. Using its strategic position in the Social Protection Floor Initiative (SPFI) in Mozambique, UNICEF is being able to influence national social protection programmes in favour of the most vulnerable children. This has particularly been made possible due to strong partnerships with key ministries, UN agencies and donors. These relationships proved invaluable as the political environment changed and opportunities for high level advocacy emerged, as a result of the economic crisis.

Potential application:
In replicating this experience to other contexts, considering broader macro-economic areas for social investments to raise overall living standards (such as in agriculture, food security and employment-generating activities) rather than on specific child benefits, may prove to be essential entry points into expanded social protection. In addition, seeking engagement of other influential ministries (such as the Ministries for Planning and Finance) and looking beyond the obvious child-oriented ministries (such as the MMAS) can open doors for a broadened social protection strategy. This can be done by linking social protection advocacy to the realities faced by the Ministry of Finance by addressing the issue of fiscal space directly. For instance, costing analyses can provide actual budget numbers that feed directly into government planning and budgeting processes.

More than 80 per cent of the Mozambican population survives on less than one USD a day [1]. In 2010, the Government announced that, despite strong and steady economic growth, the percentage of people living in poverty was unchanged from 2002 to 2008. [2] According to a recent study, chronic under-nutrition remains very high, with 44 per cent of children under five suffering from inadequate physical and cognitive development. [3] The impact of intergenerational childhood poverty is also evidenced by poverty’s proven role as a barrier to accessing social services. Large provincial disparities exist in terms of poverty rates, human development, access to social services and budget allocations. Mozambican households are also extremely vulnerable to shocks such as loss of an income or crop failure due to droughts or floods. As a response, in 2008, the Government introduced fuel and food subsidies following violent riots brought on by rising food, fuel and utility costs in urban areas. Efforts to phase out these subsidies in 2010 were met by more urban unrest, resulting in 12 deaths in Mozambique’s capital. The Government invested 1.5 per cent of GDP in fuel subsidies and 0.3 per cent of GDP in wheat subsidies in 2010. Despite these efforts, the cost of bread and other urban household food items rose by almost 25 per cent in one year and led to riots which cost the Government an estimated USD 3 million in lost revenue and damaged property. [4] However, in general, Government’s attitude and response towards social protection has been marred by budgetary constraints, lack of political support and human resource capacity challenges. Throughout UNICEF’s initial work on social protection, particularly towards approval of the Regulation for Basic Social Security in December 2009 and the National Strategy for Basic Social Security (ENBSS) in April 2010, negative attitudes regarding cash transfers persisted among higher levels of Government, particularly within the Ministry of Finance. Social protection seemed to survive within the limited sphere of Ministry of Women and Social Action (MMAS). There was limited reference to social protection in key government strategies, including the Government Five Year Plan (2006-2010) and poverty reduction strategy (PARPA 2006-2010). This further resulted in an annual budget bottleneck for the funding of such programmes. At present, national social protection programmes cover only 8.3 per cent of poor households. [5] Government data indicates that only about 0.5 per cent of GDP was allocated to social protection in 2008. [6]

[1]50 per cent of Mozambicans in urban areas are living below the national poverty line of 18.4 Meticais (around US$ 0.50) per day (Ministry of Planning and Development, 2010).
[2] Poverty and Well-being in Mozambique: Third National Poverty Assessment (2008 figures). Ministry of Planning and Development, 2010.
[3] Child Poverty and Disparities in Mozambique 2010, UNICEF Mozambique, 2011
[4]UNICEF, Internal Policy Brief on Cesta Basica, Presented to Ministry of Planning and Development (May 2011)
[5] Data from PARP Chapter, Objectiv 3 (Draft)
[6] Ibid

By Lisa Kurbiel



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