Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1243, (23 - 29 April 2015)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1243, (23 - 29 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Extending social security

One-and-a-half million Egyptian families are to get monthly cash allowances through two new social security programmes, reports Mona El-Fiqi

Al-Ahram Weekly

The World Bank and the Egyptian government signed a $400 million loan agreement on Friday to finance cash support programmes for poor families with children as well as elderly and disabled people.

Takaful wa Karama, or “Solidarity and Dignity,” are the two new programmes created by the Ministry of Social Solidarity as part of the country’s Social Safety Net Project. The loan will be used to make the project more efficient by improving targeting and delivery systems and supporting the Unified National Registry (UNR), a database on poor families and their incomes.

World Bank Regional Vice-President Hafez Ghanem told Al-Ahram daily that the bank had signed the deal because it believed the two programmes would improve the Social Safety Net Project, which was a critical element to accompany reforms.

The Takaful programme pays LE325 per month to poor families that have no source of income. For each child enrolled in primary school, the programme pays an additional LE60, to be increased to LE80 and LE120 for children in preparatory and secondary education.

The Karama programme pays LE350 per month to elderly people over 65 years old and to those who are partially or completely disabled.

“Disabled, elderly people and poor families have the right to join the programmes on condition that they do not enjoy any other social insurance programme,” said Niveen Al-Kabbag, a consultant to the minister of social solidarity and manager of the Takaful wa Karama programmes.

The aim of the programmes is to reduce the country’s poverty rate, which rose to 26 per cent in 2013/2014, according to Central Agency for Public and Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) figures.

For this reason, the government increased the funds allocated to the Social Safety Net from LE4 billion to LE12 billion in the 2014/2015 fiscal year.

The poverty rate has been going upwards due to the economic slowdown Egypt has been facing over the past few years.

Al-Kabbag told the Weekly that studies had shown the need to target certain categories of poor people, such as children, the disabled and elderly who are not able to cover their basic needs because they are cannot earn incomes.

Studies have also shown that a conditional cash transfer system is one of the best ways to support poor families and encourage them to educate their children, Al-Kabbag said.

To ensure that children can access education, children between six and 18 years old must attend school at least 80 per cent of the school year in order to get the monthly allowance.

“The Ministry of Social Solidarity will follow up their attendance in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. For children younger than six years old, following the health care programme is also a must in order to access the funds,” Al-Kabbag added.

One of the long-term aims of the programme is to invest in children while improving their health care and education to guarantee a better future, she said. With the poverty rate reaching 26 per cent of the population, Egypt remains one of the top 20 countries suffering from persistent malnutrition.

“This project is all about social inclusion and expanding opportunities to underprivileged children, especially in Upper Egypt. It will ensure that the children of poor families have consistent access to health and education opportunities through conditional cash transfers,” Afrah Alawi Al-Ahmadi, a senior World Bank official, was quoted as saying on the signing of the loan.

Through the new programmes, the number of Social Safety Net beneficiaries will increase to 1.5 million by 2019. There are currently 50,000 individuals who have joined the conditional cash transfer programme.

The programme targets 374 villages in six governorates most in need, among them the Upper Egyptian governorates of Sohag, Luxor and Assiut.

Applicants can register their names in any of the social security departments in their governorate. Within four weeks the requests will be approved or refused according to the information provided by the applicants.

If approved, a beneficiary can get his or her payments the following month by smart card from post offices, according to Al-Kabbag.

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