DUSHANBE: The progress and expansion of the Targeted Social Assistance Program in Tajikistan was discussed at a roundtable today, which brought together representatives of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Tajikistan (MHSP), Agency for Social Protection of the Population under the MHSP, Ministry of Finance and the World Bank.
The Targeted Social Assistance Program (TSA), which aims to improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable population through better targeting mechanism was introduced by the Government of Tajikistan in 2011 with support from the European Union and the World Bank. The TSA consolidates two largest social assistance programs into a single benefit and uses a special formula to identify and target the poorest 15 percent of the population in Tajikistan.
“The pilot of the Targeted Social Assistance Program demonstrated very good results in terms of identifying and targeting households, that need most help,” said Oleksiy Slychynsky, the project leader at the World Bank. “At today’s roundtable, we discussed ways to further strengthen mechanisms of the TSA program and expand their use to other social assistance programs in Tajikistan, including those that aim to protect the poor from possible increases in the cost of electricity .”
The recent Presidential Decree on the development of new tariff policy, issued on October 6, 2015, stipulates establishing a compensation mechanism to protect poor families from negative impact of possible rising electricity costs. The participants discussed ways to base the new compensation mechanism on the TSA program approach. However, the TSA program needs to be scaled up and better funded in order to play this important role. The participants agreed to continue working on the development of comprehensive measures to protect the poor from various negative economic shocks.
Improving social safety net for the poor is one of the World Bank’s key priorities in Tajikistan. The introduction of the TSA program has been funded under the World Bank’s Social Safety Net Strengthening Project since 2011. In 2013 the program was expanded to 10 districts and in 2014 it covered a total of 25 districts of Tajikistan. It is planned to expand the program nationwide by 2017.
The Ministry of Health and Social Protection (MHSP) is in charge of the TSA program implementation and will lead the efforts of the national program expansion. With the World Bank support a centralized electronic information system and the database of the National Registry of Social Protection has been established at the Agency for Social Protection of the Population under the MHSP. The system allows entering applications in the database at the district level, further verifying the data at the central level in Dushanbe, approving new benefits based on the results of the specialized formula, administering all payments through the network of the Amonatbank, and reconciling all the payments, to ensure that every single Somoni reaches the eligible recipient.
The automated proxy-means test formula used by the TSA is based on specific demographic and socioeconomic indicators of a household and is designed to minimize human intervention in the decision making on the benefit award. The formula is configured to select the poorest 15% of the population, which is approximately the rate of extreme poverty in Tajikistan. An in-depth evaluation found that the new formula was more than twice as effective in identifying poor households as the present method of subsidies. It is anticipated that the results can be improved further by using an updated formula that will be introduced in 2016 based on the newly collected household data.