Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno and Brazilian Social Development Minister Patrus Ananias today opened the II Social Development Week at IDB headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Moreno welcomed officials and experts gathered to discuss innovative ideas to break the cycle of inequality, exclusion and poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean and signed a $1 billion loan for the Bolsa Familia Program of conditional cash transfers to low-income families in Brazil. The event continues through October 27.
“Latin America and the Caribbean have achieved important progress in the consolidation of democracy and the implementation of critical economic, institutional and social reforms to guarantee economic stability and sustainable development,” said Moreno in the opening ceremony. “But there is no possibility of sustainable development without justice and equity.” he added.
“The region begins the 21st Century with a third of its population – 180 million people -- living on less than two dollars a day, and average income levels involve hidden disparities in human capital, quality of life and social condition,” Moreno said.
Moreno said that solving the huge challenges facing the region requires an integral approach, and he underscored the close connection between governance and social welfare. “Economic reforms, social development and modernization of the State are processes that reinforce each other and are necessary for the well functioning of the market.” He reiterated the IDB’s commitment to support political, economic and social progress in the region with new instruments and strategies.
Moreno identified two IDB-financed programs as examples of positive approaches: Oportunidades in Mexico and Bolsa Familia in Brazil. Both programs together helped improve the welfare of 15 per cent of the population in Latin America.
Brazilian Minister Ananias presented his country’s Zero Hunger strategy, which includes the Bolsa Familia Program serving the poorest sectors of the population. He called conference participants to join efforts to break the barriers of social exclusion and to work to secure better conditions of life for all.
Bolsa Familia Program
Moreno and the Brazilian Ambassador to the United States, Roberto Ferreira Abdenur, signed with Ananias a $1 billion loan for the expansion and consolidation of a Brazilian social protection system based in the Bolsa Familia program, centered in conditional cash transfers to poor families conditioned to school matriculation of children and use of health services.
This is the first IDB loan to use a recently approved Sector-Wide Approach (SWAp), relying on the Brazilian Government’s procedures to disburse and account for funds.
The objectives of the program are to efficiently expand the coverage of the Bolsa Familia program to all eligible families in an effective and efficient manner, strengthen the Child Labor Eradication Program, assess and improve the quality of complementary safety net programs and strengthen the recently created Social Developmen Ministry as well as the decentralized social assistance structure.
The Bolsa Familia program was launched in 2003 with the unification of several existing cash transfer programs and represents the government’s most important poverty reduction initiative. The unification of several programs under Bolsa Familia reduces institutional and sectoral fragmentation and promotes efficiency in the use of public resources.
However, the government’s sectoral strategy recognized that cash transfers alone are not sufficient to address the risks faced by poor and vulnerable families. It is also investing in complementary policies and social assistance programs supported by the IDB. These include the after-school activities for former child laborers, a new Program of Integrated Assistance to Families and the creation of a network to train social program managers.
The program supports the IDB’s strategy for Brazil of reducing poverty and inequality and promoting social inclusion. Conditional cash transfer programs for low-income families, in existence in several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, have demonstrated positive results in terms of raising household consumption and increasing school enrollment and health care utilization in a cost-effective manner.
Social Development Week
Under the theme Social Contract and Development: Towards More Equitable and Cohesive Societies, international experts, government officials and representatives from civil society, academia and the private sector will share the experience of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and that of the multilateral development agencies.
Issues to be discussed include development policies and social cohesion, development effectiveness, human development and economic and social development, job creation, gender, rights and equity, sustainable social protection and social development experiences from Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Participants in the region will also be able to participate in real time through the Internet and also hold local workshops and simultaneous activities at the IDB’s country offices in borrowing member countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.