Including the Excluded: Improving Social Protection Services in the Dominican Republic

April 10, 2017

Working mother and son, Las Matas de Santa Cruz. Photo: Miguel Soto/Presidency of Dominican Republic

By improving its ability to identify the poor, the government of the Dominican Republic documented 255,265 extremely poor individuals, approximately 45 percent of whom were women. This identification facilitated access to social assistance programs for these individuals, including a cash transfer program that enrolled 98 percent of the newly documented poor households. The country also improved targeting in its social protection system by updating the poverty status of around 2.9 million individuals.


Between early 2003 and May 2004, approximately 15 percent of the Dominican population (1.4 million people) became poor, and about 6.5 percent (600,000 people) fell into extreme poverty, due to an economic and financial crisis in 2003 that undermined real incomes. With a recently established Social Cabinet mandated to monitor and oversee all social assistance and protection programs, the Dominican government committed itself in early 2007 to important reforms of its social assistance programs. Central to this effort was locating and providing documentation to poor people who were excluded from social services because they lacked proper identification papers. Strengthening the targeting of social programs, particularly the cash transfer program, was another goal. The government identified approximately 400,000 poor individuals eligible for social assistance programs (subsidized health insurance, cash transfers, and others), but who had been excluded for lack of legal identity papers.


The objective of the Social Protection Investment Project was to improve the coverage, targeting, and effectiveness of social protection programs in the Dominican Republic. These programs combined preventive, promotional, and active measures with the goal of improving the education and health investment (that is, the human capital development) of the poorest Dominicans. The project used a multisectoral approach to document excluded individuals by financing an active search for poor undocumented Dominicans and then guiding them through the process of obtaining their identification documents. The active search included the coordinated participation of the Social Cabinet’s institutions, the Central Electoral Council, and the municipalities to ensure the services were delivered to beneficiaries. This component used output-based financing.

In addition, the project facilitated the introduction of improvements in the cash transfer program by confirming conditionalities in education and health that had not formerly been verified. The project supported improvements in the monitoring capacities of the education and health ministries involved, and it supported the design of a pilot for a community-based social audit mechanism (Community Report Cards) that was successfully expanded nationally by 2015. Finally, the project supported institutional development and strengthened the monitoring and evaluation capacities of the Social Cabinet, leading to improved targeting, updating the poverty status of the families registered in the Unified Beneficiary Identification System, and consolidating social programs.



The Social Protection Investment Project met its goals in all its areas of focus.

  • The percentage of households with at least one member targeted by the Documentation Component and integrated into the Progresando con Solidaridad (PROSOLI) program increased from zero to 98 percent between 2005 and 2016.
  • The percentage of extremely poor heads of household lacking identity documents was reduced from 28 percent in 2005 percent to 7 percent in 2016.
  • A survey for the national Unified Beneficiary Identification System (Sistema Único de Beneficiarios, SIUBEN) was completed in 2012, locating 2.2 million households in poor areas.
  • The poverty status of 100 percent of registered households in extreme and moderate poverty was updated in the 2012 SIUBEN survey. These households were subsequently certified for participation in the cash transfer program.
  • By December 2015, a social audit mechanism for monitoring participation in social protection programs was designed with community support and piloted, evaluated, and expanded at the national level.

" I left school when I was 14 years old. Now I am 28, but thanks to God I could study because I have my birth certificate now. I got my identification document. I am not ashamed any more. I am now a new person "


One of the beneficiaries of the documentation component

Students from Santo Domingo. Photo: Ángel Álvarez Rodríguez/Presidency of Dominican Republic

Bank Group Contribution

The Social Protection Investment Project (US$ 29.40 million) was mainly financed by a loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development of the World Bank and by additional national counterpart funds (US$ 3.32 million). In the wake of the global financial crisis, and at the request of the Dominican government, the Bank provided additional financing of US$ 10.0 million in 2009. This project was designed to build on a Social Crisis Response Adjustment Loan supporting social protection reforms. Other complementary social-sector operations include the Bank’s series of Development Policy Loans, called the Programmatic Performance and Accountability of Social Sectors Program, the Youth Development Project, the Early Childhood Development Project, and the Health Sector Adaptable Programmatic Loan.


A strong partnership among major development partners in the sector encouraged periodic meetings led by the Social Cabinet and the most active donors, including the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and United Nations agencies, to coordinate activities. This project also complemented the IDB’s Social Management Reform Development Policy Loan, which served in practice as earmarked budget support to cover the costs of the transfer program. The project benefited from joint missions and close coordination of activities, such as evaluations of the components of the cash transfer program. Coordinated support increased the momentum of sector reforms while promoting efficiency and transparency of spending.

Moving Forward

The World Bank approved a US$ 75 million loan for the Integrated Social Protection and Promotion Project in February 2015. The new project supports area-based transformative interventions designed to address the multidimensionality and regional disparities of extreme poverty and to initiate improvements in the social protection system. It builds on the previous project to ensure the sustainability and success of PROSOLI’s area-based integrated service provision approach. Although the new project does not directly finance documentation, it builds on the previous experience with output-based financing to close the gaps in access to the cash transfer program and subsidized health insurance for the poorest.


Giorgenesis, one of the beneficiaries of the documentation component who received support services from the project’s technical team to obtain identification documents, now lives in the department of Santo Domingo. She says, “I left school when I was 14 years old. Now I am 28, but thanks to God I could study because I have my birth certificate now. I got my identification document. I am not ashamed any more. I am now a new person.”

Social Protection
The percentage of extremely poor heads of household lacking identity documents was reduced from 28% in 2005 percent to 7% in 2016.