In 2007, the Socio Economic Survey, carried out by the Ministry of Planning, revealed that about one-fourth of Iraqis lived under the poverty line. In response, the Government of Iraqi took corrective measures, including the overhaul of the cash distribution system through Social Safety Net programs to combat poverty and ensure access to sufficient financial aid and benefits for the unemployed and disabled from the Iraqi government.
The Social Safety Net was designed to improve upon and correct the deficiencies of its primitive predecessor, which depended on isolated databases in 15 provinces, enabling misuse and corruption. Under this system, individuals were able to register to receive benefits in multiple provinces, and ineligible citizens were able to wrongfully receive benefits as the system in place was unable to detect duplicate applicants.
The Social Safety Net was championed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs with the support of USAID and the World Bank over a period of six years. It was developed by the ministry with the support of USAID-Tarabot, and built upon foundations laid down by partnerships among USAID-Tatweer, the Economic Governance II Project, and the World Bank. The World Bank supported the ministry with the hardware and know-how required to establish the Social Safety Net, while USAID supported its software development.
To establish the new system, 15 data centers were set up throughout Iraq’s 15 provinces with customized software for the automation of the distribution of benefits. The 15 datacenters were combined into a unified database at the headquarters of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. During the first run of the program, 54,000 records were flagged as suspicious, either as duplicates or not meeting requisites for receiving benefits. The ministry thereby benefitted from savings of $22 million dollars, which was channeled back into the system to support more people in need. The system is now fully owned and operated by the ministry using its own staff and an allocated annual budget of $300,000 to operate and maintain the system. The ministry’s thorough ownership of the system ensures its sustainability in providing much needed benefits to Iraq’s most vulnerable populations.
The SSN project covers 473,407 families and 1,774,204 persons. Over a million widows, orphans, and disabled persons will be receiving modest monthly allowances through an efficient, fair, and transparent SSN system, which serves clients in every province and major city through One-Stop-Shops.
USAID-Tarabot has been partnering with the Kurdistan Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to establish a One-Stop-Shop in Dahuk, which will offer Social Safety Net services. The service center was completed this month, coinciding with the first test run of the Social Safety Net system in Kurdistan. An opening ceremony will take place in October to inaugurate the service center.
Tarabot is currently working to deploy the system in the Kurdistan Regional Government, where it is expected to provide benefits for an additional 150,000 families or 750,000 individuals. As was the case throughout Iraq, the new Social Safety Net System will replace multiple and disconnected databases in Kurdistan’s provinces and link them, thereby eliminating duplicate records and ineligible payments. The contractor conducted a test of the Kurdistan Social Safety Net system, and trial payments from the new system showed excellent results. Tarabot completed the installation of the system in all sites in the Kurdistan Regional Government.