Written by, H.E Samheng Boros
The COVID-19 pandemic triggered the largest economic downturn since the 1929 Great Depression. The pandemic and the measures put in place to safeguard people resulted in a downward cycle, eventually forcing an additional 115 million people into extreme poverty.
The reality is that we have been surprised to discover that 61% of the global workforce is still made up of informal or insecure workers with little or no recourse to social protection. 55 percent of the world’s population, or 4 billion people, do not have any sort of social security, while another 26 percent are only protected against some types of economic insecurity.
According to the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) World Social Protection Report, low-income countries would require less than USD $78 billion to implement social protection measures, including healthcare, for 711 million people.
Expanding coverage and improving the conception and execution of social protection programmes such as child benefits, cash transfers, maternity and parental leave benefits, and pensions can have a significant impact on the most vulnerable households. It can assist individuals in staying out of poverty during times of change, challenge, and crisis.
When the economic crisis escalated, many countries, including Cambodia, implemented social protection measures to help citizens stay afloat.
The Royal Government of Cambodia has spent 2,613 billion Riel, or $653 million, on its cash transfer programme to help those affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Throughout that time, the programme aided nearly 750,000 families. Since the program’s inception in June 2020, financial support has been distributed to the needy and vulnerable.
The COVID-19 Cash Transfer Programme for Poor and Vulnerable Households is one of the instrumental interventions launched by the Kingdom of Cambodia in the spirit of proactivity, realism, and responsiveness to provide social protection to poor and vulnerable households in order to reduce their vulnerabilities during the pandemic.
This emergency action has served to alleviate the burden on the lives of the poor and vulnerable households who hold equity cards across the country, in both urban and rural areas.
The COVID-19 cash transfer programme had a strong positive impact on human development aspects and socioeconomic indicators such as food security, children’s education, savings, debt repayment, productivity, healthcare, and gender empowerment.
Macroeconomic modeling also indicated that the programme contributed to GDP growth of 0.55% in 2020 and 0.45% in 2021, poverty reduction of 2.7% in 2020 and 3.4% in 2021, and unemployment reduction of 0.57% in 2020 and 0.62% in 2021.
In Cambodia, approximately 750,000 families have benefited from the cash transfer programme, which represents the Royal Government’s efforts and high attention to help ease the burden of citizens who have been severely affected by the pandemic by leaving no one dying of hunger and without attention.
Indeed, social protection should be viewed as an investment because it leads to the development of human capital, has significant multiplier effects in the local economy, and contributes to inclusive growth and resilience in times of crisis.
Social security is critical for ensuring people’s well-being, dignity, and rights, as well as supporting their families. In addition to programs, better access to suitable long-term care is required to meet people’s needs. As a result, social protection must be strengthened before the next crisis.
H.E Samheng Boros is Minister attached to the Prime Minister , Royal Government of Cambodia and Chairman of National Social Assistance Fund Board (NSAF) and Secretary of State at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY).
Photos: Samheng Boros Facebook page & National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Cambodia