The Politics of Vulnerability: Assessing Citizen Satisfaction with Palestine's Flagship Cash Transfer Programme

20 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2014

See all articles by Nicola Jones

Nicola Jones

Overseas Development Institute (ODI)

Date Written: 2014


Cash transfer programmes have spread rapidly across the developing world in recent decades, reaching hundreds of millions of poor and vulnerable people globally. Reviews of the evidence have shown that well targeted, well designed social transfer programmes are an effective instrument for reducing household poverty and promoting human capital development. Where the evidence base is much weaker is in the role of social transfer programmes in strengthening state-building and citizenship in conflict-affected contexts.

In order to contribute to this debate, we draw on a citizen perceptions study we undertook of Palestine’s flagship national cash transfer programme in 2012. Absorbing more than 1% of GDP the programme reaches over 150,000 extremely poor households in Gaza and the West Bank. However, while it has been assessed positively in terms of poverty targeting as well as its provision of complementary social benefits (beneficiaries receive social health insurance, educational fee waivers and food aid, in addition to quarterly cash payments), policy elites are concerned that the programme has done relatively little to bolster state-citizen relations. This is significant given that in the aftermath of the Arab Spring there is keen interest across the Middle East to better understand citizen views of state service provision and state legitimacy, especially among the poorest and most vulnerable population quintiles. The occupied Palestinian Territories have not undergone revolution, but given precarious geo-political dynamics and the political division between Gaza and West Bank which was fuelled at least in part by citizen dissatisfaction with state service provision, questions about the state-citizen contract are high on the political agenda of not just the Palestinian authority but also of key international actors in the region, especially the EU, UN and the World Bank.

Drawing on qualitative individual and group interviews with beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries as well as key informants in Gaza and the West Bank, the paper adopts what Samuel Hickey (2007) has dubbed a ‘politics of implementation’ framework to explore citizens’ perceptions of programme effectiveness, equity, transparency and accountability. The paper concludes by reflecting on potential entry-points for strengthening programme social accountability and in turn fostering a more robust sense of citizenship among the most vulnerable.

Keywords: social protection, cash transfers, political economy, Palestine, citizenship, state building

JEL Classification: I38, N45

Suggested Citation

Jones, Nicola, The Politics of Vulnerability: Assessing Citizen Satisfaction with Palestine's Flagship Cash Transfer Programme (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Nicola Jones (Contact Author)

Overseas Development Institute (ODI) ( email )

London, SE17JD
United States

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