Ministry seeks to expand social protection schemes
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.