E-VAT takes toll on anti-poverty program

The E-VAT, the centerpiece of the national government's revenue generation
program, was cited as among the major reasons for the sluggish expansion of
the P9.4 billion World Bank-assisted Kalahi-CIDSS:KKB program to various
poor communities in the country, Social Welfare Assistant Secretary Ruel
Lucentales said.

Lucentales, acting national manager of the Kalahi program, said the
implementation of community-based projects lined up by the program for this
year have been facing delays due to the increase in prices of construction
materials as a result of the full imposition of the 12 percent E-VAT since
February.

“Our beneficiaries are experiencing difficulties in raising their
counterpart funds and additional resources to fill up for the sudden
increase of their projects’ budgetary requirements (because of EVAT),” he
told MindaNews on Wednesday.

Lucentales said thye problem eventually delayed the transfer of the
program's funds from the World Bank and the Department of Social Welfare and
Development to their target community-beneficiaries.

Kalahi-CIDDS:KKB stands for Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and
Integrated Delivery of Social Services: Kapangyarihan at Kaunlaran sa
Barangay, a poverty alleviation program managed by the DSWD.

The six-year program, now halfway over with its fourth year of
implementation, is funded by a P5.1-billion or roughly US$100-million soft
loan of the government from the World Bank and a P3.6-billion counterpart
from the national and local governments.

The program, which started in 2003, aims to cover at least 3,583 barangays
in 138 municipalities and 42 of the poorest provinces in the country until
the end of 2008.

As of Wednesday, World Bank Senior Economist Andrew Parker said the program
was already implemented in 123 municipalities but it only absorbed about
US$30 million or 40 percent behind the bank’s total allotment.

Parker, the bank’s task team leader for the Kalahi program, noted that the
slack in the overall disbursement of funds during the first half or first
three years of the program’s implementation affected its expansion to other
community-beneficiaries.

“This one area where we hope to make some progress in the coming months so
we can expand to more municipalities,” he told reporters during a visit to
one of the newly-completed Kalahi projects in Sitio Consolacion, barangay
Banahaw here on Wednesday morning.

But Parker stressed that the program gained a positive rating overall in its
recent mid-term evaluation because of the “tremendous impact” that it
brought to residents and the communities that have benefited from it.

He cited the positive changes that the new potable water systems of
barangays Banate and Malalag Cogon and the three-room school building of the
Consolacion Elementary School in barangay Banahw.

The water systems, which cost P2.76 million, specifically benefited at least
550 families while the P1.14 million school building helped provide a
permanent learning facility for 140 elementary pupils.

“Look at the big difference between these buildings and the glow in the eyes
of the school children who, I’m pretty much sure, are more comfortable and
focused now in terms of their studies,” said Parker, pointing to the new
school building and the abandoned dilapidated wooden structure near the
school’s main gate.

Parker said both the bank and the government will work harder to hasten the
implementation of the project in the next two and a half years.

He said the bank has been coordinating with the DSWD and the Department of
Budget and Management to facilitate the faster disbursement of the program’s
funds.

“We want to move faster in the second half of the project so we could meet
the targets that we’ve earlier set by the time the program ends in 2008,” he
said.

Lucentales said they have been also coordinating with various local
government units to help beneficiaries raise their counterparts and provide
additional funds to cover the budget gap caused by EVAT’s implementation.

“This is very important because the program’s policy is that, no project is
allowed to start unless the beneficiaries have already raised their 30
percent counterpart that may come in cash or in kind. The project will only
start if their monetary contribution is already deposited in a bank,” he
said.

Aside from the financial part, Lucentales said the program’s community
development workers are also trying to fix some problems with regards to the
compliance of some of the beneficiaries to the program’s standards.

He emphasized that they only give clearance to a completed project if all
processes and a project’s standard specifications have been properly
complied with by the beneficiaries.
“We usually find some problems about these standards at the homestretch of
the project’s implementation and this has been also causing some delays in
our overall work,” Lucentales added.

The Kalahi program was designed to “empower the communities by providing
thebasic support services that would enhance their socio-economic
development."

DSWD Assistant Regional Director Gemma Rivera, Region 12’s Kalahi program
manager, said the Kalahi projects were implemented based on proposals from
residents or stakeholders of the community-beneficiaries.

"The community stakeholders themselves identified and decided on how the
projects were implemented based on a 16-step process set by the program,"
she said.

According to a project briefer, residents would evaluate their needs and
come up with a project proposal through a community or barangay assembly.
The project would then be submitted for final deliberation and approval to a
municipal inter-barangay forum. After approval of the project proposal,
community leaders will then endorse it to the DSWD for funding.

During the implementation stage, the communities also take the lead role by
conducting the bidding, purchase the needed materials and facilitate the
construction of the project.

In Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao, the program is being implemented in
183 barangays of 10 municipalities scattered in the provinces of South
Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and Cotabato.

The Kalahi program has allocated some P196.2 million for the implementation
of various community-based projects in the area until December

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