The government has rolled out a K20.9 billion Emergency Cash Transfer Programme targeting 199,640 vulnerable people in the country’s cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu.
According to a statement, which Secretary for Economic Planning and Development and Public Sector Reforms Winford Masanjala has signed, the intervention seeks to cushion livelihoods of vulnerable and low-income households from the socio-economic impact of Covid.
“The cash transfers target those who primarily derive their livelihoods from the informal sector, especially those who depend on piece-work, petty trading or those who may have been laid off from work. The programme is being implemented in geographically targeted poverty hotspots based on the cities’ social-economic profiles and household vulnerability assessment,” the statement reads.
The cash transfers are supporting beneficiary households through a monthly cash payment of K35,000 over a period of three months (January to March).
According to the statement, this month of February, beneficiary households are receiving their January and February transfers.
This means that the beneficiary family will be left with the March transfer of another K35,000.
“These cash transfers are being delivered electronically through mobile money service providers Airtel and TNM. The government further wishes to inform all stakeholders that only those eligible beneficiaries that successfully identified themselves in the Know- Your-Customer (KYC) exercise and had their data aligned with the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development and Public Sector Reforms register have commenced receiving the transfers,” the statement further indicates.
The intervention is being supported by the government and cooperating partners such as International Labour Organisation, World Food Programme, United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, KFW, GIZ, the European Union and the World Bank.
Social commentator Rafik Hajat said the project was a good start but a mere drop in the ocean as far as cushioning vulnerable people from Covid was concerned.
He also said giving out the cash alone could not change the situation on the ground unless there were trainings and proper accounting mechanisms to ensure that the money reaches the intended beneficiaries.
“You will need to have regulations on how to use that cash and how to account for that cash; otherwise, you will find that the money has just been squandered,” he said.
The idea to cushion vulnerable people with money during the Covid pandemic was hatched during former president Peter Mutharika’s administration as he was about to introduce a lockdown.