USAID, World Bank Partner with Iraqis to Launch Social Safety Net Program

For Immediate Release

Thursday, May 28, 2009
USAID Press Office

BAGHDAD -The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Iraq's Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MoLSA) today launched the Social Safety Net program nationwide aimed at providing benefits to the most vulnerable citizens of Iraq and facilitating their integration into the country's economic development.

In 2005, the Government of Iraq passed legislation to establish a Social Safety Net to complement the state-subsidized food rationing system, the largest social security spending in the country. The new system is intended to help low-income families, displaced workers, and unemployed people adjust to the ongoing restructuring and reform efforts. The initiative is an essential step in ensuring food availability, supplementing buying power, encouraging students to stay in school, and preserving access to other social services.

The USAID-funded Economic Governance Program in partnership with MoLSA provided technical support in the design of the Social Safety Net program, including upgrading the information technology system, and leveraging grants from the World Bank Trust Fund to expand coverage to 21 sites. A team of USAID advisors and their Iraqi counterparts addressed key capacity building concerns by enhancing the skills of civil service personnel in technical, operational and management techniques essential to the implementation of the program. The World Bank and USAID have invested more than $13 million for the nearly four-year project.

The Social Safety Net system has robust processes to detect and prevent operational irregularities that allow for the delivery of benefits in a standardized manner to all needy recipients. The system uses internal controls that ensure accurate identification, registration, and verification of recipients, and appropriate tracking of beneficiary records and payments. Such mechanisms are aimed at running an effective, transparent and accountable program.

The success of the 2008 pilot in Baghdad paved the way for a Memorandum of Understanding between MoLSA and USAID to expand the program nationwide. Today, nearly 673,000 people, or 2.4 percent of the population of Iraq, are receiving benefits through the Social Safety Net program. The program is expected to cover an estimated one million beneficiaries.

Since 2003, USAID has invested more than $6 billion on programs designed to stabilize communities; foster economic and agricultural growth; and build the capacity of the national, local, and provincial governments to respond to the needs of the Iraqi people.