Welfare and Health
The paper investigates the role of external pressures in the adoption by Cambodia and the Philippines of what may be described as a donor-compliant model of social protection. One that is poverty-centric and residualist, the core qualities of social protection heavily promoted by donors/international development agencies for more than two decades. Through extensive documentary analysis and key informant interviews conducted during fieldwork from March 2017 to March 2018, I discover subtle and overt mechanisms and processes used by donors/external actors in inducing conformity from the two countries. Such conformity is puzzling given the two countries’ glaring difference in degree of aid dependence, with Cambodia being one of the most aid-dependent countries in Southeast Asia, and the Philippines, clearly less so, if at all. This puzzle, then, highlights the imperative to take external pressures seriously—to reevaluate the strategic role of aid and the non-benign participation of donors/external actors in social policymaking and programming in recipient countries like Cambodia and the Philippines.
As the paper problematises external pressures, it also questions the externally sponsored model of social protection, which is based on narrow targeting of the poor in the name of efficiency in the use of limited public resources. In Cambodia and the Philippines, efforts to extend the use of targeting in other social programmes have effectively diffused the ethos of targeting in the larger systems of social provisioning. This, I argue, only entrenches fragmentation and segregation in such systems, which, ultimately, will have negative implications on the broader social ordering.