One umbrella: Wider welfare system in Egypt

Nada Zaki , Saturday 13 Jul 2019

A new law would bring beneficiaries of cash subsidies under one umbrella, reports Nada Zaki

source: World Bank
source: World Bank

A new social welfare law that would see beneficiaries of cash subsidy programmes merged under one umbrella is to be submitted this week to parliament for discussion before it goes to summer recess.

The new law includes the criteria and mechanism of choosing those who are eligible to cash subsidies. According to the new law, those getting social solidarity pensions as well as the beneficiaries of Takaful and Karama and the one-year-old Forsa (Opportunity) programme will all be merged and governed by the rules applied to the Takaful scheme.  

The latter provides families with cash support on condition that the families can prove they give their children needed educational and medical care — the reason it is called conditional cash transfer.

Karama provides the elderly and others with disabilities, as well as orphans, a non-conditional monthly payment. Forsa aims at empowering its beneficiaries by providing those eligible with job placement, training, and skills development.

The government currently provides social solidarity pensions to 1.2 million families, 80 per cent of which have been reviewed so far in order to be registered in the new programme.

The merged programme comes in line with the Ministry of Social Solidarity’s announcement that it registered 120,000 new families into Takaful and Karama during the current fiscal year, increasing the beneficiaries of the two projects to 3.3 million families by 2020.

The four-year-old Takaful and Karama scheme was launched with the aim of supporting impoverished families with school-aged children, the elderly and people with special needs, mainly in Upper Egypt.

The programme has reached more than two million impoverished households nationwide, benefiting approximately nine million individuals across all 27 governorates, or approximately 10 per cent of Egypt’s population, with women comprising 88 per cent of the beneficiaries.

This comes by providing monthly conditional pensions to vulnerable families and non-conditional pensions to poor, elderly citizens and people with severe disabilities and illnesses, as well as orphans.

Mohamed Al-Okabi, the Ministry of Social Solidarity spokesman, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the new programme seeks to enhance the support the government gives to social welfare providers, explaining that enrolling them into Takaful and Karama will equalise the financial support provided to all cash-transfer recipients.

“Takaful and Karama is a conditioned sustainable development subsidy programme. It is attached to a number of rules the government has drawn up in order for families to continue receiving the cash-transfer, including enrolling their children in school and having regular health check-ups,” he said.

He added that following the positive effect the conditional cash transfer programme has had on families, the ministry wants to transfer all its cash subsidy programmes to the status of conditional.

Al-Okabi also explained that the new programme provides social welfare beneficiaries with a bigger amount of monthly cash transfers, rather than those currently being received.

“Social welfare recipients receive the maximum LE300 monthly from the ministry, while Takaful and Karama beneficiaries receive the minimum LE450 with added money for children varying from LE80-LE180 depending on the age of the child,” he added.

While Al-Okabi said that the overall cost of applying the new programme is yet unclear, he stressed that the ministry has enough allocations to cover it.

Earlier this month, the World Bank said it will be giving Egypt a $500 million loan to finance the expansion of the Takaful and Karama programmes for an additional three years, the ministry said in a statement on its official website.

Filtering social welfare beneficiaries and eliminating those who fail to meet the criteria of eligibility is one of the main objectives of the new system.

According to the new plan, there will be an assessment of beneficiaries every three years to eliminate those who are proven undeserving.

To be eligible for the programme the families’ children must attend 80 per cent of school days, and for the mothers to regularly have check-ups at local health units, starting from pregnancy until the child’s age of six.

The law states that the government is responsible for finding beneficiaries a sustainable job. Those who reject job offers three times are to be scrapped from all subsidy programmes.

The programme connects the ministries of health and social solidarity, and electricity and renewable energy in one system to follow up on the monthly consumption of mobile bills by families and monthly consumption of electricity as factors in examining the situation of recipients to determine their eligibility.

*The writer is a freelance journalist.

 *A version of this article appears in print in the 11 July, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Wider welfare system

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