Kimi Kash

Any excuse is good to put up a photo of my baby girl.

So, this may not be the part of this last week I will remember the most, but it is the one bit of becoming a parent in Québec that I can hang a Caracas Chronicles post on.

After Kimi was born, a seemingly never ending stream of doctors and nurses went through our room with various bits of official advice – on breast-feeding, on spotting the signs of deafness, on Shaken Baby Syndrome, you name it.

One of them brought a simple, inconspicuous, one page government form that took five minutes to fill out – a Declaration of Birth. If you didn’t look at the fine print, you might not even realize that this inoffensive little bit of paper entitles Kimi not just to a birth certificate, but also to Single Payer Health Care, a Pension Plan (talk about cradle-to-the-grave!) and…an Unconditional Cash Transfer!

Actually, two Unconditional Cash Transfers, since the Canada Child Tax Benefit is matched by the provincial-level Soutien aux enfants du Québec.

The specific amounts you get depend on your family income – the Québec transfer goes from a minimum of $611 per year per child to a maximum of $2,176, with an additional amount for single parents. The Canada transfer also varies depending on the family’s circumstances.

What doesn’t  change, though, is that they’ve devised a completely idiot-proof, hassle-free and painless way to apply for these credits – rolling them into another tramite you have to do anyway, so that if you’re not paying attention you may not even realize that you’re doing it.

And that aspect of it, if nothing else, is one Venezuela could certainly learn from: the process for signing up for Canada’s child-support UCTs is user-focused. Rather than doing what Latin American bureaucracies always do – thinking of the problem of how to sign people up to a new government program from the standpoint of the bureaucracy’s needs – here they’ve devised a system that looks at the problem from the parents’ point of view, minimizing the hassle to the parent and ensuring universal coverage – because, after all, every birth has to be registered, right?

Whatever the specifics of the CCTs the next government brings in, I hope they’ll start to look at new ways of extending social services that put the user first.

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