PEP research influences policy in developing countries






Summaries of recent impact stories from projects supported between 2016 and 2019 are published as part of the 2019 PEP Annual Report.

Impact stories from previous PEP projects or initiatives

Listed by country/alphabetical order

ALSO:  Find out how PEP support contributes to the promotion of Southern-based experts

ARGENTINA (2009-2012)

Assessing the impact of Argentina's Ley Federal de Educación on educational and labor outcomes
By Leonardo Gasparini, Carlos German Bet, Maria Laura Alzua and Francisco Haimovich Paz
See PEP policy brief 88

PEP researchers stir up education policy debates in Argentina

In 2009, a team of Argentinian researchers were granted the support of PEP to train in the application of the most advanced techniques of impact evaluation research, as they aimed to produce an empirical assessment of the effectiveness of a major national education reform implemented in the 1990’s, “Ley Federal de Educación (LFE)”. Their findings led them to conclude that this particular policy, which basically entailed the addition of two years of compulsory education, had had virtually no effect on schooling and labor outcomes in the country. In other words, those poor young adults educated under the LFE (i.e. after 1994) derive no benefits in terms of greater integration into the labor market or higher wages today.

Their findings were presented and discussed in various relevant seminars and conference events in Buenos Aires and La Plata, as well as largely disseminated through mass media in the country. As a result, the evidence produced by this PEP-supported impact evaluation has been assimilated, cited and used by several policy makers and civil society representatives involved in ongoing debates around new reform of national education policies in Argentina. 


BRAZIL (2009-2011)

Estimating Participation and Spill-over Effects in Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programs
By Rafael Perez Ribas, Fabio Soares, Clarissa Gondim Teixeira, Elydia Silva and Guilherme Hirata
See PEP policy brief 89 and PEP policy brief 90

PEP researchers advise on program implementation in Paraguay

Much of the debate concerning conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs focus on the issues of targeting and conditionalities. Despite the number of initiatives led, mostly in Latin America, to assess the impact of CCT programs, there is little evidence as to the actual effect of the cash allocations per se, or the value added by the conditionality. Based on the case study of a conditional cash transfer program implemented in Paraguay (Tekoporã), at pilot phase, a team of PEP Brazilian researchers sought to assess how non-monetary components of CCT programs may affect the consumption patterns and behaviors of beneficiary households.

They found, on the one hand, that the pilot phase of the program has been successful in improving children’s attendance in both schools and health centers, as it aimed, but that the main driver of such improvement was the change in households’ preferences, induced by the program rather than the additional income per se.  Plus, the results also show that if the “message” (or signal) associated with the program’s requirements (or conditions) has led to a change in families’ behaviors, that change was not caused or influenced by the awareness of the program’s conditionalities or enforcement methods (e.g. family support visits by social workers). Given the costs of implementation of such programs’ “non-cash” components, the researchers strongly recommended that further examination of the relative contribution of each of the program’s components be conducted, so as to clearly assess what is essential to secure the desired outcomes, prior to scaling up.

Over the past few years, the team has frequently been contacted by and/or met with officials in Paraguay, e.g. from Census Bureau, the Ministries of Finance and Social Assistance, as well as from the Department in charge of implementing the Tekoporã program, seeking information about the project’s results and policy advisory with regard to the (re) design and potential expansion of the program. The researchers, however, lament the high turnover rate of appointed program managers, which has made it quite difficult to provide and see through such advisory work, i.e. as they had to resume the process with each newly appointed team. They eventually decided to focus their communications on more permanent Ministerial components and officials, through whom the influence may not be as direct but more likely to produce long-term effect.


CAMEROON (2006-2008)

Acquired Benefits and Poor Targeting in Public Spending on Health and Education in Cameroon
By Dia Bernadette Kamgnia, Afor Josephine Fosah, Simon Jules Leunkeu Wangun and Tatsinkou Christophe
See PEP policy brief 50

PEP research leads to the improvement of health services to the poor in Cameroon

As important reforms of the public sector were underway to help Cameroon achieve the MDGs in 2006, a team of local researchers was selected to receive PEP training and support in the conduct of rigorous analysis to find out how the country’s poor actually benefit from public spending in education and health services.  The project was conducted in direct consultation with members of the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Territorial Management, the Committee in charge of monitoring the implementation of the National Strategy for Growth and Employment and the National Bureau of Statistics.

Specific results on the acquired benefits of the poor related to the quality of health services were taken up by the Ministry of Public Health in the elaboration of the National Plan for Sanitary Development. The research findings were used, in particular, to help improve the quality of health services, especially those provided in district-level medical centers and hospitals, as well as services provided in rural areas, where it was specifically recommended that increased resources should be devoted to the improvement of hospital hygiene, quality of personnel, equipment and infrastructure.

CAMEROON (2006-2008)

Dimensional and Regional Distribution of Multi-Poverty in Cameroon
By Paul Ningaye, Virginie Takoutio Feudjio and Alexis Tiomela Yemedjeu
See PEP policy brief 81

Cameroon national statistics adopt new multidimensional approach to poverty based on PEP research

The purpose of this particular study, led by a team of local researchers, was to provide a fuller characterization of poverty in Cameroon, through the use of the “Dimensional Scores” methodology to measure precisely the level and spatial distribution of deprivation in each welfare dimension – i.e. health, education, income, infrastructure, etc. This type of analysis contributes, in particular, to identifying the specific needs of various population groups and thus assist in the fight against poverty at the national level.

After attending a conference organized by the team in the country’s capital, Yaoundé, to share their work and findings with the public, officials from the National Bureau of Statistics contacted the team leader, Dr Paul Ningaye, to request his collaboration and advice in the integration of new indicators to monitor/measure poverty in the 2013 ECAM IV (national household consumption) surveys to ensure that national statistics better reflect gender-related and multidimensional aspects of welfare in the future.

CHAD  (2004-2006)

How does public spending in Chad benefit the various population groups?
By Tabo Symphorien N., Anatole T. Mogota and N. Djindil Syntiche
See PEP policy brief 26

PEP support leads a local researcher to advise national development strategies in Chad

In 2004, PEP provided support to researchers in Chad to conduct an incidence analysis on existing national household survey data, to find out how public spending in health and education did and would actually benefit the population, as well as the distribution of such benefits among different groups and regions.  This project aimed to provide evidence to inform the government’s decisions, while defining priorities in the context of the National Poverty Reduction Strategy implemented in 2003. Based on the researchers’ recommendations, the government decided to organize follow-up surveys to trace health and education spending to their destination in order to measure the share of the budget that reached the target population.

Thanks to the quality of the ensuing paper, as well as the methodological expertise he had gained through this PEP-supported project, the team leader was first recruited by the International Monetary Fund Office in Chad, in 2008, and then as a long-term consultant in economic studies by AFRISTAT, in Mali, in 2009.

He was also called upon by the African Development Bank, as the official consultant and correspondent for Chad, to contribute to the African Economic Outlook five years in a row. And finally, in 2012, the same researcher was recruited by the UNDP, as a consultant, to assist the Chadian government in designing the 2012-2015 National Strategic Development Plan. His expertise in terms of multidimensional poverty analysis will thus contribute to better identify and target specific needs in terms of welfare improvement for the country’s population. 

CHINA (2010-2012)

The Impact of Tuition Relief Program in Senior High School on Poor Students in Rural China 

By Xinxin Chen, Chunlei Lang, Lijuan Guo, Pingping Gu and Shaoqing Zhang
See PEP policy brief 110

PEP findings inform policy debate regarding investment in education in rural China

Despite considerable improvements in schooling of rural youth populations over the past decade, the Chinese government is still looking to address the sizable remaining gap between the enrollment rates of rural and urban students, especially at senior high school level. In 2010, a team of Chinese researchers began assessing the early impacts of a tuition relief program for senior high school students, implemented in the relatively poor rural county of Ningshan, in Shaanxi Province. When compared with those of other counties, the results show that the program contributes to significant improvement in both the enrollment and performance of rural students in senior high school.

Based on these findings, the Education Bureau of Ningshan County decided to maintain and extend the program for an additional five years, and has disseminated the researchers’ results and recommendations further up to the provincial level where they are currently being examined.  While China’ Ministry of Education is looking to increase investment in rural education, and debates are ongoing on how to proceed, it is hoped that these results will find their way even further up to national educational officials, and possibly lead to expanding trials of tuition relief programs for all of the poorest rural areas in the country.

CHINA  (2010-2012)

Assessing the impact of China's priority forest programs on rural households' income and income mobility
By Can Liu, Hao Liu, Wenqing Zhu, Qingjiao Rong
See PEP policy brief 109

PEP findings used to inform Chinese pro-poor environmental strategy


At the end of the 1990s, while facing severe threats in terms of resource management and ecological sustainability, the Chinese government implemented a new environmental strategy including six “Priority Forest Programs” (PFPs), which combined objectives of environmental restoration and reduction of rural poverty.

In 2010, PEP granted support to a team of local researchers to lead a research project in which they would use data collected from over 3000 households in 6 different provinces in order to assess the actual impact of these programs on rural household income and income mobility. 

This evaluation project was carried out in direct consultation with the PFP Management Officers from the State Forestry Administration, as well as Officials from the Ministry of Finance and Department of Agriculture. As a result, the researchers’ findings and recommendations were taken up by the State Forestry Administration in preparation of the next (12th) Five-Year National Forestry Development Plan.

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EGYPT  (2008-2012)
Asmaa Elbadawy, Nadia Zibani and Rania Roushdy
Assessing the Impact of Ishraq Intervention, a Second-Chance Program for Out-of-School Rural Adolescent Girls in Egypt

Program implementers call on PEP researchers’ assistance to improve Ishraq's design and implementation

This experimental impact evaluation project aimed to assess whether the Ishraq program, implemented in Egypt between 2009 and 2012, has been successful in improving the welfare and prospects of rural adolescent girls, by helping them to make better-informed life decisions in regards to education, marriage and livelihood opportunities.

As a result of their evaluation, the researchers found evidence that the program has had particularly large impacts on the following outcomes: literacy skills (including financial), participation in and attitudes towards sports for girls, aspirations in regards to education and work, gender role attitudes, general and reproductive health knowledge, the extent of peer networks and participation in decision-making processes.  However, they also found that the program fell relatively short in informing beneficiaries on issues related to nutrition, female genital mutilation, reproductive health (room for improvement), infant care and attitudes related to harassment and violence. Nonetheless, the researchers strongly recommend the scaling-up of the Ishraq program, at the national level, to help Egyptian girls acquire the literacy and life skills needed to become empowered citizens.

In addition to working in close collaboration with and from the institution in charge of implementing the Ishraq program, the researchers also consulted with a number of concerned NGOs in the country (CARITAS, Teaming for Development, the Egyptian Food Bank – all program collaborators), and had frequent meetings with several officials from the National Council for Youth and the Ministry of Education (including at local-, governorate- and national levels, from both successive regimes).  These consultations and meetings have contributed to significantly improve of the program, as well as to ensure broad dissemination the project’s results amidst all concerned institutions and government bodies. The PEP research team was even requested to provide a series of “Training of Trainers” workshops and mentoring for selected cadres within the NCY, as well as to prepare a manual providing detailed information on the program’s implementation.

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GHANA  (2013-2014)
Edgar F.A. Cooke, Sarah Hague, John Cockburn,
Abdel-Rahmen El Lahga and Luca Tiberti
Estimating the Impact on Poverty of Ghana’s Fuel Subsidy Reform and a Mitigating Response – A UNICEF-commissioned study

Read the full paper


Ghana committed to expand anti-poverty program in response to a PEP report on the effects of fuel subsidies

In early 2013, the Ghanaian Government introduced the removal of fuel subsidies over the first half of the year. Prices of petrol, kerosene, diesel and LPG saw rises of between 15% and 50%, until prices reached their market level in mid-September 2013.  Following the subsidy removal and before the 2013 budget was finalised, PEP was commissioned by UNICEF to assess the impact of the reform on the poor and to ensure a mitigating response in the form of a social safety net. Initiated on the request of the Government, this project was to be the first study to examine the effects of Ghana’s fuel subsidies.

The analysis confirmed that, so far, government aid has disproportionately benefited the country’s wealthiest group - with 80% of fuel subsidies going to the country’s wealthiest, while Ghana's poor receive only 3% of the revenues generated. However, the findings also showed that removing fuel subsidies would increase poverty by 1.5% (an additional 395,000 people pushed into poverty).

On the other hand, in terms of mitigating policy responses, the researchers demonstrated how doubling the national cash transfer program (LEAP) to 150,000 households in 2014 would completely reverse the national increase in poverty and reduce inequality. In response to these findings, the Ghanaian government thus committed to doubling LEAP to 150,000 households, and announced that they plan to eventually triple their commitment. 

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INDIA (2005-2006)
Sugata Marjit, Archita Banik, Saibal Kar
Urban Informal Sector and Poverty - Effects of Trade Reform and Capital Mobility in India?
See PEP policy brief 31

PEP researchers’ findings in India prompt initiatives in favor of social security for workers in the informal sector

In this particular project, a team of PEP-supported researchers in India observed the impact of wage fluctuations in the informal sector on poverty incidence across various states in India. They found that informal wage growth – which is facilitated by freer movement of capital – can be instrumental in lifting a significant share of the population out of poverty.

The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS) – a national body commissioned by the Indian government to address the issues faced by enterprises in relation to the informal employment sector – demonstrated keen interest in the project outcomes.  In 2010, the project leader’s reported that its personal initiatives to inform the NCEUS of their findings, between 2006 and 2008, had contributed to “subsequent steps towards the implementation of policies related to social security benefits for workers in the informal sector, as well as to consultations with banks concerning lending credit facilities.”

Unfortunately, since the researchers’ last report to PEP, the NCEUS has been dissolved and it is unclear how their policy initiatives and recommendations have been carried over or taken up by the government…

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KENYA (2008-2012)
Germano Mwabu, Alice Muthoni Ng'ang'a, Mumia Phyllis Machio and Racheal Nakhumicha Musitia
Improving School Quality in East Africa: Randomized Evaluation of Policies to Create Local Accountability under Free Primary Education in Kenya See PEP policy brief 106

PEP research findings help prevent awry government strategy

One of the solution proposed by the government to address issues of low school performance in Kenya in 2008 implied the scaling up of a “contract teacher intervention”, previously introduced by an NGO in Western areas of the country, where it had shown to have improved test scores for primary school students. However, concerns were raised regarding the idea of generalizing results from one experimental program to assess the effect at the national level, as well as to whether an NGO-piloted program would be successful if implemented by governmental agencies. PEP-supported local researchers thus set out to realize a highly rigorous impact evaluation - conducting randomized controlled trials on 192 schools in 8 different provinces - to assess the potential success (or effectiveness) of such an intervention’s scaling up throughout Kenya.

In the end, the evidence produced by the team revealed that, no matter how carefully and rigorously an intervention is designed, the end results and effectiveness in reaching targets largely depends on the nature of program implementer and the institutional context/constraints – as the government-led interventions yielded completely different results from the NGO-led ones. The researchers also demonstrated that extrapolating results from a locally-based NGO program to national government policy is not a valid option, and that, overall, free primacy education policies in Kenya has only but benefited to the not-so-needy in society.

Throughout project execution, the researchers have worked in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC). The results have been shared directly with senior officials in both agencies, as well as with the Permanent Secretary and the "Vision 2030" Strategic Planning Group, that reports to the President. The latter, in particular, is likely to ensure that the results are used as inputs in the policymaking process, as they give recommendations to the MOE in regards to policy orientations in the education sector.

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MACEDONIA (2013-2014)
Nikica Mojsoska-Blazevski, Edi Smokvarski, Maja Ristovska, Marjan Petreski
Youth self-employment in households receiving remittances in Macedonia See PEP policy brief 115

PEP research findings and recommendations taken-up in the formulation of various strategic policy documents of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy in Macedonia

Low job creation and high unemployment are part of the most important issues in Macedonia. Amid the global economic crisis, tightened credit conditions, lack of venture capital financing and the malfunctioning labour market, youth restrain their entrepreneurial aspirations and rarely risk new venture. On the other hand, Macedonia receives large inflows of remittances – approximately 4% of GDP annually.

In 2013, a team of local researchers were selected to receive PEP support to conduct a rigorous analysis of existing and nationally representative datasets, to assess the probability that a young person will enter self-employment if his/her household receive remittances. Indeed, their findings show that youth living in recipient households have considerably larger probability to establish their own business, ranging between 28% and 33%, suggesting the potential of remittances to support youth entrepreneurship, and thus help tackle major social issues in Macedonia. Find out more about this project here (including a video interview with one of the research team member): 

The various institutional affiliations and “contacts” of the research team members have allowed them to consult directly with the Minister of Labour and Social Policy and the Governor of the National Bank of Macedonia. In fact, throughout the course of their PEP project, the team has held several consultation meetings with national-level policymakers from various government agencies - including also (in addition to those cited above) the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Foreign Investment.

The researchers also engaged national and regional mass media to raise general awareness on the issue (i.e. the potential of using remittances to foster youth entrepreneurship), and participated in national and international conferences where they presented their research work and preliminary findings.

As a result of these efforts, the researchers' recommendations were taken-up in the formulation of various strategic policy documents, including the "Strategy for Employment 2015-2020" of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (MLSP). The team also managed to launch a nation-wide debate on the policy options for enhancing the effect of remittances on youth self-employment, and their findings were reflected in a report by the IMF. 

In December 2014, the team was invited to participate in a special meeting hosted by the MLSP, and involving several other government institutions, to provide inputs for the re-design of national employment policy strategies and programs, based on the outcomes and findings from their research work. 

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PERU (2005-2008)
Martin Valdivia, Verónica Frisancho, Dean Karlan  
Teaching Entrepreneurship: Impact of Business Training for Microfinance Clients and Institutions
See PEP policy brief 67

How PEP research findings have led to the improvement of microfinance institutions' services in Peru and beyond

In 2005, as microfinance institutions (MFIs) worldwide are pursuing innovations to improve the effectiveness of micro-lending in helping microentrepreneurs to escape poverty, a team of researchers in Peru were granted PEP support to assess the impact of a “business training” program implemented by one MFI (FINCA-Peru) to improve their poor (female) clients’ entrepreneurial skills and business practices. Based on the encouraging results of the PEP-supported study, FINCA confidently expanded the training program to other groups and it has since become a regular feature of the services they offer to their clients.

But the implications have extended way beyond that sole institution. As the researchers’ findings were presented at several academic and policy meetings within Peru and around the world, it was later reported that many other Peruvian MFIs and national NGOs (such as PRISMA, ADRA and Manuela Ramos in collaboration with FFH) had started to insert a business training component into their services as well. A few years later, MIBANCO – a large regulated microfinance bank associated to Acción International – and Banco de Crédito – the largest commercial bank in the country – were also offering business training to their clients in Peru.

At the international level, the authors were contacted by researchers that are partnering with MFIs in Mexico and in India, who are also trying to combine business training with their regular microfinance services, to advise on the integration of an (experimental) impact evaluation component similar to the method used by PEP researchers to assess the FINCA program’s impact.

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SENEGAL (2008-2012)
Abdoulaye Diagne, Mouhamadou Moustapha Lo, Fatoumata L. Diallo, Ibrahima Oumarou Sadou
Assessing the impact of a school canteen program in primary schools in rural Senegal

In Senegal, a primary school feeding program is expanded based on a PEP impact assessment

In this PEP project, a team of researchers in Senegal set out to assess the impact of an experimental school canteen program on the performance of pupils in rural primary schools. 120 schools were selected in rural areas where the program had not yet been implemented. Half of these schools were assigned to receive the program (treatment group) and the other half, not (control group). This randomized controlled trial enabled the researchers to observe the actual effect of their feeding program on the students’ scores, on the schools’ rates of (grade) repetition and drop outs, as well as on other external, potentially unintended effects. The evidence produced by the team showed significant positive impact of the program on several aspects of schools’ and students’ performance, not to mention on the students’ nutrition.

After they presented these findings to an audience of key national policy makers and stakeholders - especially from the Ministry of Education - as well as from some of the country’s development partners, the government decided to not only pursue but even scale-up the program, and double the number of school canteens to be implemented over the next three years. Moreover, the government decided to take further advantage of the researchers’ new skills in the use of scientific methods and techniques for impact evaluation, to have them assist the Department of Agriculture in improving policies implemented in the context of the new “REVA” (agriculture revitalization) plan. In the end, both initiatives have been linked, as the results from the initial PEP project have led the authorities to consider that, in addition to improving school performance and child nutrition, the school canteen program may also be used to boost local agricultural production. With canteen products purchased directly from local farmers, the welfare of the latter shall also be improved.

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UGANDA (2008-2012)
Madina Guloba, Lawrence Bategeka, Ibrahim Kasirye
Improving School Quality in East Africa: Management and Motivation in Ugandan Primary Schools  See PEP policy brief 98

Results from a PEP impact assessment show how community involvement can improve performance in Ugandan primary schools

Despite relative success in improving school access in Uganda since the mid-90s, learning outcomes at the national level remain poor and the government still faces important challenges, especially in terms of “quality” of education services, which, in Uganda, particularly suffer from high rates of teacher absenteeism. In this PEP-supported randomized control trial, a team of local researchers set out to assess the effectiveness of different types of “community-based monitoring interventions”, in order to inform policymakers of possible ways to improve the management of primary schools in the country.

The results show that community involvement is key - and a cost-effective alternative - to improve performance and ensure proper school management in Ugandan primary schools. Such results have immediate implication for education policy in any country with similar contexts, i.e. where accountability is low and implementing test-based incentives may be too expensive.

The study was conducted in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Sports, the National Planning Authority, as well as the Board of National Assessment for Progress in Education (NAPE), all first-hand users of its expected outcomes. Consultations at the Ministerial level were mainly done with the Ministry of Education and Sports to ensure their adhesion to the ensuing results and policy recommendations. It also created an entry point for the researchers into the Ministry, whose officials provided inputs for the design of the survey and intervention instruments used throughout the project implementation period.

More consultations were held with two international organizations: the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) and World Vision. As both are based at district and community levels, their collaboration was expected to facilitate the training of participants and monitoring of field activities, as well as to help the project’s findings and recommendations, once issued, to reach and impact at the grass roots level. It was later reported that both institutions are now using these findings, as well as the analytical tools designed for the purpose of this project, in their own interventions and monitoring/evaluation activities. Moreover, as a result of the implementation - through the PEP project - of community-based systems to monitor the selected schools’ management and performance, it was reported that a great deal of initiatives have later been undertaken, by the communities, to tackle identified and related issues.

Finally, made aware of the PEP researchers’ study, the World Bank provided them with funding to pursue their work and further examine, based on their initial PEP findings, the drivers of weak governance in Ugandan primary schools.


URUGUAY (2007-2012, 2 consecutive projects)
Veronica Amarante, Mery Ferrando, Arim Rodrigo
and Andrea Vigorito
Family Allowances and Child School Attendance. An ex-ante Evaluation of Alternative Schemes in Uruguay  PEP policy brief 60

School Attendance, Child Labor and Cash Transfers: An Impact Evaluation of PANES - See PEP policy brief 85

PEP researchers in Uruguay assist government in re-designing cash transfer program to help foster human capital accumulation

In 2007, the Uruguayan government was looking at the possibility of renewing a recently expired program that aimed to foster human capital accumulation (and alleviate poverty) through cash transfers, granted on a conditional basis, to poor households in the country. Simultaneously, a team of local researchers was awarded two successive PEP research grants: one to assess the actual impact or success of the previous program (entitled PANES) on the intended outcomes (such as school attendance, child labor and income poverty), and the other to forecast those of the prospective program (entitled “Asignaciones Familiares”) by providing an ex-ante analysis of various potential new schemes of allowance and conditionality.

Made aware of their research work, officials from the Ministry of Social Development (in charge of designing and implementing the new program) called on the PEP team to join the special advisory committee mandated to assist in the related decision-making process. On the one hand, results from their PEP-supported research work had led the team to conclude that, for several identified reasons, the first cash transfer program had basically failed to achieve its core objectives in terms of human capital accumulation.

On the other hand, they were able to assess the best policy options, in terms of program design and targeting, to ensure the success of the new program. Based on these findings and recommendations, the Uruguayan policymakers avoided repeating past mistakes and the new program was designed according to the scheme identified by the researchers as the most promising in terms of impact on school attendance, labor, poverty and inequality.


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