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Conditional cash transfers in the Caribbean: Learning from the literature

File Created On:
October, 2016

Eastern Caribbean countries are currently developing and implementing substantial social safety net reforms. These reforms are based on, among other things, assessments of current provisions as well as lessons from international good practice and experience, with particular attention to the experience of other countries in the region and Latin America.

Social Safety Net Assessments were conducted in various Eastern Caribbean countries in the 2000s to provide a basis on which to propose reforms. The assessments made reference to conditional cash transfers (CCTs), but did not necessarily make clear recommendations as to whether or not they should be implemented in these countries.

Cash transfer programmes provide cash to poor individuals, households and vulnerable groups. The objectives are to increase the incomes of the poor and help individuals and households cope with diverse shocks, risks and crises. Unconditional (or ‘non-conditional’) cash transfers (UCTs) define a right to a cash transfer that becomes an entitlement for people with specified characteristics (such as age or disability status) who meet specified qualifying requirements, such as passing a means test. CCTs also specify characteristics and qualifications but, in addition, require that the applicant fulfil specified behavioural conditions in order to continue receiving the grant.

Ferreira and Robalino note that CCTs were first implemented in Brazil in 1995. CCT interventions became more well-known after the approach was adopted by Mexico in 1997. CCTs, as a form of non-contributory social assistance rather than contributory social insurance, were seen as attractive because of their ability to mitigate the limitations of what Ferreira and Robalino (2010: 10) describe as the “‘truncated welfare state’ – where income redistribution took place primarily among the better off, to the exclusion of those most in need.” However, Slater (2011: 252) notes that conditionality constitutes one of the most debated aspects of social protection with “strong views on either side.”

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