Min­istry seeks to ex­pand so­cial pro­tec­tion schemes

The Myanmar Times - - News - MYINT KAY THI my­in­tkaythi@mm­times.com

THE Min­istry of So­cial Wel­fare, Re­lief and Resettlement plans to ex­tend a pi­lot so­cial pen­sion pro­gram for the el­derly and back a pro­gram that sup­ports moth­ers through cash hand­outs.

“Right now we are try­ing to get ex­act data on the num­ber of se­niors,” said U Kyaw Lin Htin, direc­tor of the Depart­ment of So­cial Wel­fare. “The pro­gram started for the first time last year.”

At the end of 2015, the Min­istry of So­cial Wel­fare, Re­lief and Resettlement be­gan to sup­port se­nior cit­i­zens aged 90 and above with a mod­est pen­sion. The orig­i­nal strat­egy pro­vided for a K25,000 monthly stipend for cit­i­zens over 65, but was scaled back due to fund­ing short­ages.

“We sup­ported 30,000 se­niors through­out the coun­try,” U Kyaw Lin Htin said. “A grand­fa­ther or a grand­mother was sup­ported with K18,000 [US$15, an­nu­ally] last year.”

In the pro­gram’s first year, it re­ceived K500 mil­lion from the state bud­get. But to ex­tend the ben­e­fit to the full el­i­gi­ble de­mo­graphic would cost an es­ti­mated K1.15 tril­lion ($889 mil­lion), or just over 1.5 per­cent of the GDP. Myan­mar spends less than 0.5pc of the GDP on all of its so­cial pro­tec­tion ser­vices, the low­est in ASEAN.

“I think the num­ber of users will be greater than last year be­cause now the pub­lic knows about the pro­gram,” U Kyaw Lin Htin said. “We will ask the gov­ern­ment to con­sider re­duc­ing the re­quire­ment age and to in­crease the amount of cash step-by-step in com­ing years, based on the out­comes of the bud­get.”

The min­istry hopes to re­duce the min­i­mum age re­quire­ment to 80 for those liv­ing in Chin State, U Kyaw Lin Htin said.

The pen­sion pro­gram is part of a 10-year, na­tional-level poverty re­duc­tion plan sup­ported by the gov­ern­ment, the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion and the United Na­tions.

The Min­istry of So­cial Wel­fare, Re­lief and Resettlement also plans to ramp up its back­ing of the Ma­ter­nal and Child Cash Trans­fers pro­gram, which was launched in se­lect lo­ca­tions by Save the Chil­dren in 2014, sup­port­ing preg­nant women and moth­ers with chil­dren un­der two. The child and ma­ter­nal health ini­tia­tive last month got a ma­jor boost to ex­pand with fund­ing from the Liveli­hoods and Food Se­cu­rity Trust Fund (LIFT) to­talling $14.5 mil­lion.

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