Using Information to Deliver Social Protection in Latin America and the Caribbean: Lessons from Cash Transfer Programs Implemented during the Pandemic
Guillermo Cejudo, Profesor Investigador Titular de la División de Administración Pública del CIDE, y Miguel A. Guajardo Mendoza escribieron el artículo Using Information to Deliver Social Protection in Latin America and the Caribbean: Lessons from Cash Transfer Programs Implemented during the Pandemic en la revista Occasional Paper Series.
The COVID-19 pandemic tested the capacity of social protection systems in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Given the fragmentation of social protection provision in the region —and the dramatic effects on jobs and income—, LAC governments expeditiously reacted with cash transfer programs (CTPs) that temporarily compensated the loss of income. From March 2020 to March 2021, 31 LAC governments implemented 134 CTPs. Based on our analysis of these CTPs’ attributes and the countries’ existing social information (Cejudo et al., 2021), we describe how available information enabled rapid responses that directly reached 24.6% of the region’s population and draw lessons about the future of social information systems. We find that some countries were prepared: they had social registries (information about potential beneficiaries) and beneficiary registries of other CTPs to easily enroll and transfer the payments. Other countries had to rely on additional administrative databases (not designed to implement CTPs), such as school registries or electricity billing records. Yet, there were countries where CTPs were made as usual: in person, both in offices or households, gathering new information to enroll and pay, creating burdens and limiting the coverage. These findings help in describing responses to the pandemic, but also shed light on the opportunities for building better social protection systems: building flexible programs to adapt social protection, using new data sources to implement agile responses, lightening administrative burdens, and working within a new logic in information systems where agencies share and use interoperable data.