This topic serves to foster the discussion among participants of Mongolia's Child Money Programme Webinar of 27 October 2015. Questions posted here may be answered by community members and the panelists. 

The webinar's recording, Ms. Munkhzul presentation and other relevant files are available in the "Documents" section of this Online Community.

 

Comments

Arthur van Diesen - The presenter mentioned the link between social protection provisions such as the CMP and population growth objectives. Is there any evidence of the effect of the child money programme on fertility? This is important particularly as many countries are trying to reduce population growth and are worried that child grants may raise the fertility rate. My personal hunch is that benefits provided are too small to have a significant impact on reproductive choices.

Ms. Munkhzul: Fully agree, the size of the benefits is comparatively small at about only 10% of the minimum wage, and therefore, there is no evidence that the child money programme has resulted in increased fertility. However, there are some anecdotal evidence that the poor people have children to benefit from the CMP. It is apparent that many of poor families live on their child money.   

Sandra Silva - How are the beneficiaries registered? What is the mechanism used for the people to apply for the grant? Is it an on-demand registration or an outreach survey?

Ms. Munkhzul: The delivery of the universal CMP was designed with a far more simplified procedure for implementation. Citizen need to apply to any commercial bank of his/her choice and open up an account for his/her children’s money. 13 commercial banks concluded a memorandum with the Ministry of Population Development and Social Protection to cooperate in implementing the CMP. The banks do not charge any service fees as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility. It is an on-demand registration. 

Stefan Granlund - Thank you for your presentation Munkhzul! Did the receivers of the child money programme experience any sort of stigma for getting the money during the targeting period in Mongolia? And if so, has that changed now that it is a universal programme? Thanks

Ms. Munkhzul: During the targeted child money programme, the country’s economy was not so good, and therefore, people were highly interested to be part of the programme. Even, there were people who prepared false documents to be eligible for the programme, which used to create additional burden for social workers. 

In addition, targeting methodology at that time was not well developed, causing lot of complaints from citizens. This was one of the reasons to drop out the targeting and provide child money to all children without any conditionality. 

Enkhnasan Nasan-Ulzii - Is Mongolian government open to a wider range of targeting solutions apart from PMT? 

Ms. Munkhzul: The majority of existing social welfare programmes are categorically targeted. For instance, the target populations are identified as blind people, elderly or single headed households etc. In this case the services are provided regardless their income or livelihood level.  Currently the PMT is used only for the food stamp programme and the health insurance programme. In the future, the government intends to apply categorical targeting, means –testing and PMT methodologies for targeting depending on the nature of programmes.

Louise Moreira Daniels - Many thanks. Question for first presenter. Could you please clarify what is leakage in a universal scheme? 

You mentioned that one important, if not main, objective of the child allowance program was to increase population. How has the program impacted that? 

Ms. Munkhzul: During the universal programme, some of the wealthiest families still receive social transfers. For instance, survey shows that 30% of total child money transfers remain at the bank as long-term savings. There is no doubt that if this was redistributed to the poorest children, the programme would have a better results for children.  

Ludovico Carraro - Thank you for the very interesting presentation. Mongolia is currently facing substantial fiscal challenges, do you think that it will be possible to continue the universal nature of the programme? There have been many changes, programme started than was stopped, it started again, etc. how important is to have a continuous stable programme for a lasting impact?

Ms. Munkhzul: The universality of the CMP is already at stake. Due to current fiscal deficit, the Government has submitted a budget proposal, with reduced government expenditure by targeting social welfare programmes, including the CMP. According to the budget proposal submitted currently to the Parliament, 60% of children will receive the same amount of cash transfer in 2016. A total of 144 billion MNT is budgeted for CMP in 2016 from the Human Development Fund. The target children will be identified based on already established database of households through PMT. Operational costs related to grievance mechanism is reflected in the state budget to address exclusions in targeting.

The discussion of the 2016 budget is ongoing at the Parliament. The targeting of CMP was raised back in January 2015, and the main opponents were female parliamentarians.

Sudeshna Sengupta - Is Education a free, public funded entitlement for all children? Would be interested to know who are the beneficiaries of Social Welfare of Caretakers programme? 

Ms. Munkhzul: In Mongolia, twelve –year education is free and nine-year is compulsory education (five years of primary education and four years of lower secondary education).  

Mongolia has welfare programmes targeted at the elderly, people with disabilities, victims of violence, double orphan children and people released from detention. In addition, monthly benefit is provided for the caretakers of bedridden person who requires permanent care. However, the size of the benefit is small not reaching the half of the minimum wage. 

Esuna Dugarova - What is the ideology behind family/child support in Mongolia (of CMP is part)?

Ms. Munkhzul: Mongolia is a country which traditionally supports family and children extensively. One of the indication is that the country has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Children as one of the first 10 countries in the world and already committed to its 3 optional protocols. In addition to the international treaties, the government is committed to improve the domestic legislations for children.

However, it is also evident that the political parties engage in children’s and family issues a lot in order to win their votes during the parliamentary elections.   

Fazley Elahi Mahmud - Even the universal approach led to overcome exclusion and inclusion errors and made greater impact on poverty, the budget cut is disappointing. Do you think the budget cut is inevitable due to lack of fiscal space or is the decision is taken from political considerations?

Ms. Munkhzul: The budget cut for CMP is inevitable. Mongolia is facing a considerable budget constraints due to revenue deficit caused by mainly decrease in import and fall in commodity prices. Therefore, the government is planning to implement a “belt-tightening’ budget policy by cutting expenditures and targeting welfare programmes, including the CMP. 

Louise Moreira Daniels - Question for Bjorn. In a context of limited state resources and large population, with high poverty rates, countries see that they must start somewhere, not with universality. In terms of trying to ensure impact for children, what would be a sensible approach? And what is your take on the impact of cash tarsnfer for families with children under 2 on fertility?

Franck Patrick Fokou Dchuoune - PMT is used by almost african countries which are implementing social welfare programs. exclusion rate are so high, for example the social safety net in Cameroon,  is adressed to the less poor people after a deep selection process. Meanwhile the reason is that the budget allocated to the programs is just 50 million USD.

So how can we build a Global social protection system all over the world to plaid and sustain universal shape of the social welfare programs? 

Ms. Munkhzul: Fully agree. We should apply PMT considering the nature of the programme, its coverage and the size of the budget allocated. The success of the PMT will depend on how the methodology was designed to assess the livelihood of the particular nation. PMT creates confusion among the population if the methodology is used for targeting a small number of beneficiaries.  People usually doubt in the methodology as their assumption is different than the livelihood level estimated using the PMT. However, PMT has some positive results when the methodology is used for the right programmes using correct formulas and developing good questionnaires. There is no methodology which identifies one’s livelihood perfectly. 

Tariq Ali - There is also social and political cost of PMTs, but besides all arguments against the PMT, why is it still method of choice for financial institutions? 

Please see the answer above.

Lena Nguyen - Hi, I'd like to ask Ms Munkhzul if she has data on administrative costs, especially when the scheme was targeted vs. when it was universal 

Ms. Munkhzul: I apologize, there is no data available. 

Rasmus Schjoedt - About the cost: Is the cost of 1.4% of GDP seen as excessive in Mongolia? How big a percentage is it of the government budget? And how does this cost compare internationally with other countries in the region?

Ms. Munkhzul: I agree that the scheme is costly. Mongolia is the only country among the Asian countries with similar level of development, which has universal child money programme.

Daniela Gregr - Thank you very much for this very interesting presentation! I would be interested in learning more about the role of UNICEF and other actors in advocacy for child benefits and universality 

Ms. Munkhzul: In 2007, UNICEF conducted an analysis of the extent to which the CMP contributed to poverty reduction and found that the targeted programme resulted in very high leakage to non-poor households and substantial exclusion of poor households due to flaws in proxy-means test and implementation problem.

It also confirmed that almost twice as many children were enrolled as would have been expected with perfect targeting. On the other hand, the paper identified some barriers that hindered access to CMP by the most disadvantaged children. Furthermore, the analysis has confirmed that the programme makes a real contribution to poverty reduction as measured by household consumption expenditure per capita, in particular among children, due to the larger number of children living in poor households.

UNICEF shared the report with the government in different occasions, however, it is not clear that the government has considered this when they restarted the universal CMP.

UNICEF has also been a parts of the Assessment Based National Dialogue, led by ILO, which concluded that income security for children is ensured by universal CMP and recommended the Government to continue the universality of the CMP in legislation and indexing the allowances to the cost of living.

Lena Nguyen - I would like to also ask Ms Munkhzul what was the relative role of evidence (UNICEF's analysis of the CMP) vs. politics (new government) in turning the targeted programme into a universal one?

Ms. Munkhzul: In fact, the targeted conditional child money programme used to create lots of frustration among population due to uncertainty in the targeting methodology and evident errors of exclusion. At that time, the poverty headcount ratio was almost at 40%. The political parties have capitalized on this situation and reflected in their election agenda a promise to make the programme universal. That is basically, how the programme has become universal. Politically, the universal programmes are more favourable for the public. 

Stefan Germann - What is the delivery mechanisms of the cash transfer, are you using electronic payment systems via mobile phones or any other innovative form of digital payment?

Ms. Munkhzul: Based on the previous experience, the delivery of the universal CMP was designed with a far more simplified procedure for implementation. Citizen need to apply to any commercial bank of his/her choice and open up an account for his/her children’s money. 13 commercial banks concluded a memorandum with the Ministry of Population Development and Social Protection to cooperate in implementing the CMP. The banks do not charge any service fees as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility. 

Fabio Veras - Could the Mongolian parliament support a larger budget for the CMP than what has been proposed by the government for 2016? If not, what would be more likely: to reduce the value of the benefits and keep it universal or to return to targeting?

Gemma Wright - Many thanks for a great presentation. Congratulations to Mongolia for implementing a universal child allowance! Let's help ensure that the Mongolian example goes down in history as the trail-blazing country that enabled the rest of the world to follow in its footsteps.

Gaspar Fajth - I was surprised to see the strong poverty focus in the presentations -- and no mention of arguments for providing income support for all families with children BECAUSE investing in child development  is one of the  most efficient ways of investing in human resources. Income smoothing over the lifecycle can also be an argument: young parents tend to have lower wages. Are these arguments being discussed in Mongolia or the debate is centered on poverty reduction (only)?