The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the need for a universal and portable social protection system that can uniquely verify people and deliver benefits efficiently and at scale. For governments, there are important tradeoffs to consider between the costs and benefits of expanded eligibility and access to social assistance. But over the long term, countries have no choice but to put in place a system of social protection that is flexible, can scale up quickly in times of crisis—and save lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable. Governments have the tools to build such systems, by leveraging existing resources and technologies. What is needed is the will to do so.

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