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Strict criteria causing ‘poor families’ to miss out on emergency payments

Harrison White and Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
IDPoor recipient in Russei Keo district’s Chraing Chamreh commune will receive direct cash transfers during the COVID-19 pandemic. KT/Siv Channa

Cambodia’s IDPoor programme is continuing to have concerns raised over its selection process for who is and isn’t eligible for the emergency cash payments.

Concerns were raised to Khmer Times directly by a local village chief that the strict selection criteria implemented by the government to assist the selection process is causing “poor” families to be removed from the IDPoor programme.

The comments came from the local village chief of Kork Srok village in Mongkul Borey district, Banteay Meanchey province who said that the governments set criteria was too restricting and were, in turn, causing discontent among the community against those who have received the payments.

“During the original selection process in my village, I selected 23 families out of 170 families that I thought were deserving of the IDPoor card. However, four of those families were removed from the programme as commune authority’s found their living standards to be too high,” he said.

According to the village chief, the four families were removed from the programme because they either had a corrugated tin roofing on their home or transport for getting around the village.

“These families were registered to receive an IDPoor card. However, commune officials removed them from the list because they had either a zinc roof or had a very old motorbike and hence could not be defined as poor,” he said.

According to the village chief even though the village agreed that the family was poor, because they did not fit the government’s criteria they were removed from the list and will have to wait to be reassessed in another two years.

“This has caused some jealousy from those who believe they are poor in the village, but we have to accept the verdict because the government has evaluated them based on the criteria set in the system,” he added.

In response to concerns over the “unfair” selection process, one of the original designers of the IDPoor programme, the German embassy, said, of course, the programme is not perfect, but, no social security system in the world is.

“While the IDPoor programme has been around for many years before the COVID-19 pandemic, it had mainly been used for “in-kind payments” such as food, health and education assistance, not for direct cash payments. These direct cash payments have brought a different dimension to the programme,” Charge d’Affaires of the German embassy in Cambodia Benjamin Knodler said.

Knodler added that in response to the pandemic the programme was expanded to more than 560,000 families at  “breakneck” speed and while there may be genuine issues with a relatively small number of families the overwhelming majority are genuine and are greatly benefiting from the scheme. “We cannot let perfect be the enemy of the good. Looking into the future I believe the programme could be more targeted to specific groups of need such as the elderly and disabled that would reduce these selection problems,” he said. “In addition to the cash payments, it should not be forgotten that the data this programme is also creating will be a treasure trove of information for development organisation in the future. Once the pandemic ends the data will enable better emergency responses, as well as basic food, health and education development,” he added.

The selection criteria has been implemented by the government after more than 6,000 families from the first two rounds of IDPoor registration were found to have manipulated their socio-economic status to benefit from the government-funded cash aid scheme, according to the Ministry of Planning. “The manipulation was discovered after several poor families who received the allowance saw some of the well-off families receiving cash too,” said director of the ministry’s planning department, Theng Pagnathun. The figure was the cumulative number of families – 4,000 during the first round and 2,000 during the next round – found to have registered their names for the aid despite belonging in the middle- to high-earning households.

The government has decided to pay $25 million per month to more than 560,000 poor and vulnerable families who are affected by the pandemic.

According to Prime Minister Hun Sen, the programme will stop if and when the COVID-19 situation eases, adding that the government has reserved $125 million for the special aid.


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