(Un)conditional cash transfers in Southern Africa and "the new politics of redistribution"
Jelena Vidojević (University of Belgrade - Faculty of Political Science)
Paper short abstract:
Cash transfer programs, introduced in a number of African countries, represent a "new politics of redistribution", which, among other things, seriously questions a widespread belief on a very foundations of the welfare state.
Paper long abstract:
The rise of neoliberal ideology during the 1980s and 1990s was almost universally followed by the major transformation of the welfare state, characterized by the "silent surrender of the public responsibility". Welfare reforms had strong emphasis on the "personal responsibility" over rights, and the whole system became more restrictive. At the same time, the region of Southern Africa, despite a strong influence of neoliberalism, took a different path regarding the social welfare. A "new way of thinking" about poverty, unemployment and social rights emerged and the region became a valuable source of some ingenious and innovative responses to the most urgent social risks. It became self-evident that wage labor based livelihoods are simply not going to return and that a new forms of redistribution had to be installed. The focus had been shifted from the production to the redistribution and (un)conditional cash transfers were introduced, rooted in a strong conviction that "it is better to give money to the poor people directly" so that they can find an effective ways to escape from the poverty trap. These programs are non-contributory, paid directly from the state, while payments are made regardless of employment history. They represent a "rightful entitlement to income". Rigorous evaluations suggest that cash transfer programs reduce immediate poverty, improve nutrition, stimulate local economy, promote investment and help creating jobs, and, at the same time, contribute to the deconstruction of the widespread and persistent myths on welfare and welfare recipients.
Social Assistance Policies in Africa