New social protection assessment aims to help strengthen policies and programs for the poor

MASERU, July 5, 2021—The World Bank, in collaboration with the government of Lesotho, has released a new report assessing the performance of Lesotho’s social protection policies and programs. As the country continues to face weak growth and limited budgetary resources, further constrained by the economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, strong and effective social protection programs are needed to help protect people. vulnerable and ensure that they can meet their basic needs.

the Review of social protection programs and systems recognizes Lesotho’s progress establish safety net systems and programs and suggests a selected range of policy options to increase budget savings and improve program coverage and effectiveness.

“This report will help inform the design and implementation of our social protection programs and policies to ensure that they are effective and equitable ”, said Matebatso Doti, Minister of Social Development of Lesotho. It will also help us improve the efficiencies of existing programs to enable us to fund more programs such as the Disability Grant and Infant Grant.

Lesotho has made significant investments in the development of social protection programs over the past 20 years. The country’s social protection programs address vulnerabilities across the lifecycle, from children to the elderly. However, current programs are expensive, with social protection spending accounting for around 6.4% of gross domestic product (GDP), making Lesotho the top spending country among all African countries.

The review found that although several social assistance programs in Lesotho are effective in reducing poverty, they are low cost-effective and poor targeting, with much of the aid going to the non-poor. The operational systems used to run the programs remain largely manual and have leaks that affect the effectiveness of the programs. Simulations show that if programs such as graduate scholarships were selected only for the poorest students with savings reallocated to a transfer to the poorest households, the national poverty rate could be reduced by 3.2. percentage points at the food poverty line.

“We hope this research will improve policies to ensure that the significant investments the government is already making in social protection will help break the cycle of poverty for the next generation, keep children healthy and in school,” and to help households move from social subsidies for their livelihoods to more sustainable income-generating opportunities, ”said Marie Françoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Eswatini.

The report suggests that the government revise the distribution of spending among social protection programs with the aim of improving value for money while improving their benefits for beneficiaries. He suggests increasing and reallocating spending on social protection to poverty-targeting programs such as the Child Grants program, the total costs of which are only 0.15% of GDP. It also suggests improving social protection systems by shifting payments from cash to digital payments and introducing ‘Cash Plus’ measures to link beneficiaries to productive activities, and link children’s grants to better investments. in human capital.

Joel C. Hicks