Informing Decisions with Disparate Stakeholders: Cross-Sector Evaluation of Cash Transfers in Malawi

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The Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP) in Malawi is a cross-sectoral policy with impacts on health, education, nutrition, agriculture and welfare. Implementation of the SCTP requires collaboration across sectors and across national and international stakeholders. Economic evaluation can inform investment by indicating whether benefits exceed costs, but economic evaluations that provide an overall benefit-cost ratio typically assume a common agreed objective and agreed set of value judgements. In reality, the various stakeholders involved in the delivery of the SCTP may have different remits and objectives, and may differ in how they value the impacts of the programme. We use the SCTP as a case study to illustrate a cross-sectoral analytical framework that accounts for these differences. The stakeholders that contribute to the SCTP include the Ministry of Gender, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, and Global Fund. We estimate how the SCTP changes outcomes in education, health, net production and poverty, and distinguish outcomes in three groups: SCTP recipients; population in Malawi not eligible for the SCTP; population in other countries. After estimating the direct effects and opportunity costs from investing in the SCTP, we summarise the results according to different perspectives. The SCTP is estimated to provide benefits in excess of costs from the perspective of national stakeholders. From the perspective of an international donor interested in health outcomes, its health benefits do not outweigh the opportunity costs unless health improvement in SCTP recipients is valued at eighteen times that of other potential spending beneficiaries or the donor values broader outcomes than health alone. This work illustrates the potential of a cross-sectoral economic evaluation to guide debate about stakeholder contributions to the SCTP, and the value judgements required to favour the SCTP above other policy options.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-151
JournalHealth Policy and Planning
Issue number1
Early online date18 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press in association with The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

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