Repeal of the Mother’s Grant New Generation (Bolsa da Mãe - Jerasaun Foun) Programme and improvement of the "Mother's Grant" Conditional Support Grant Programme

Presidency of the Council of Ministers

Spokesperson of the Government of Timor-Leste
Ninth Constitutional Government


Press Release

December 6th, 2023

Repeal of the Mother’s Grant New Generation (Bolsa da Mãe - Jerasaun Foun) Programme and improvement of the "Mother's Grant" Conditional Support Grant Programme

The Mother’s Grant New Generation (Bolsa da Mãe - Jerasaun Foun) Programme has played an essential role as a pilot project, as it has made considerable contributions to the fight against poverty in Timor-Leste.

However, the Ministry of Social Solidarity and Inclusion (MSSI) must be entirely responsible for designing and conducting national social development policies, as the Government needs to develop a clearer perception of the relationship between the State's capacity, the national situation and the realisation of sustainable initiatives with medium- and long-term effects.

This strategic move aims, based on an analysis of experiences from 2012 (regulated by Decree-Law No. 18/2012, of April 4th) and then from 2021 (regulated by Decree-Law No. 22/2021, of November 10th), to ensure that we can amplify and strengthen social impacts, according to the real national budgetary capacity, with a focus on a specific audience and line of action.

The objective is clear: to increase and strengthen our national capacity to protect against poverty and malnutrition, which significantly jeopardise our children's full development and prosperity, and against the failure of families to fully adhere to the education and health systems. This requires the development of an income redistribution policy coherent with presumably permanent internal conditions in budgetary and multidisciplinary terms.

We are responsible for refining and implementing holistic and comprehensive strategies to effectively address the multifaceted challenges of poverty and malnutrition through an integrated package of nationally led and designed interventions. To this end, support for children by granting subsidies to families needs to be consolidated into a specific social assistance income transfer programme based on more expressive results and multidisciplinarity.

We don't rule out the possibility of the Government acting to support pregnancy. However, any move in this direction must consider the national situation and the definition of a birth policy - which needs to be considered, conceived and implemented.

These positions mark a significant step in our commitment to the well-being of our country's poorest and most disadvantaged children. We are dedicated to building on the foundations laid by the Mother’s Grant (Bolsa da Mãe) Conditional Support Programme, ensuring that the poorest children are protected and supported in a sustainable and impactful way in the short, medium and long term.

The justification for repealing the Mother’s Grant New Generation (Bolsa da Mãe Jerasaun Foun) Programme and amending Decree-Law No. 18/2012 of April 4th is based on 10 general factors:

  1. Optimising scarce resources: Resources should be directed towards children, with updated figures, rather than keeping the exact figures as in 2012 and at the same time expanding the beneficiary public by including pregnant women. This ensures that the limited resources are directed towards achieving more significant results in a specific audience (children). It is more rational to include another target group (pregnant women) only when the results achieved by children have been consolidated, and the State's capacity to include other categories has been sufficiently studied.
  2. Policy consistency and public perception: Concentrating benefits on children is more compatible with consistency between the various social programmes, which are primarily targeted and conditional. Focusing resources on the target group of children makes it easier to meet requirements that produce multiple practical results, such as vaccination and school attendance, involving other areas that are essential to social development (in these two examples, immunisation and education).
  3. Increasing the nutritional impact: With an increase in subsidy amounts, families will be able to afford a truly nutritious diet.
  4. Creating the conditions for a comprehensive approach: There is a need to intensify the subsidised benefit for children, and very shortly, additional themes may be incorporated. The inclusion of pregnant women, which took place in 2021, did not attempt to improve what was being developed under the 2012 Decree-Law mentioned above, as it limited itself to expanding the number of beneficiaries.
  5. Combating the fragmentation of the programme consolidated by the 2012 Decree-Law mentioned above: Given how subsidies were granted in 2012 and 2021, two programmes coexisted without a link between the two: a programme for children and another for pregnant women. No legal provision was established to clarify that by including pregnant women, support for children would be strengthened.
  6. Strengthening the original programme to increase its impact on concrete results: The Government intends to enhance the original Mother’s Grant (Bolsa da Mãe) programme while still including children under the age of six to maximise the impacts and return on investment, with a focus on human capital development and inclusive economic growth. This begins by delimiting a public and, simultaneously, valuing it with readjustment. Without these reforms, it is impossible to develop the original programme so that it becomes a national and possibly international benchmark.
  7. Government capacity building and ownership perspective: It is crucial to develop internal capacities and ownership of critical programmes to reduce dependence on external funding and support, thus strengthening the long-term sustainability of the national social protection system.
  8. Responsive and context-specific approach:  The Government must adapt to the population's changing needs with an approach specific to the national context, avoiding relying on external models and partner agendas.
  9. Data and privacy management: The fulfilment of responsibilities under data and privacy legislation requires Government control over data and information from data systems. This involves consolidating registration systems in different social assistance programmes, safeguarding data privacy and preventing third parties' access and/or control.
  10. Perspective of strengthening the reliability of payments at health centres: Ensuring the reliability of transfer payments at health centres is imperative for the programme's credibility among citizens. This objective must be supported by solid mechanisms for monitoring and verifying information - to be consolidated very shortly - and interoperable with existing health systems. Achieving this goal will require a coordinated intra-governmental effort, ensuring that all related processes are seamlessly integrated and work effectively to serve the public without interruption.

At its meeting on December 6th, the Council of Ministers approved a draft Decree-Law, presented by the Minister of Social Solidarity and Inclusion, Verónica das Dores, to repeal Decree-Law 22/2021, of November 10th, which established the pregnancy and child allowances, known as Mother’s Grant New Generation (Bolsa da Mãe - Jerasaun Foun) allowances, and to amend Decree-Law 18/2012, of April 4th, which established the Mother’s Grant (Bolsa da Mãe) conditional support allowance. This Decree-Law strengthens the Mother’s Grant (Bolsa da Mãe) Conditional Support Allowance by introducing different monthly subsidy amounts, between US$ 8 and 10, based on the beneficiary children's school cycle, thus encouraging school attendance. In addition, the amounts earmarked for school-age children with disabilities who attend school are increased by US$ 5, underlining the Government's commitment to promoting equity. END