Experts have advised the government to strengthen monitoring of its social protection programmes by decentralising the responsibilities of ministries and divisions.
Presently, monitoring is conducted by the Cabinet Division, but it must be done at the programme level for better outcomes, said Hossain Zillur Rahman, executive chairman of Power and Participation Research Centre, at a session of the Bangladesh Development Forum yesterday.
Rahman, who has done extensive work on social safety net schemes, also called for monitoring on all levels of the programmes, as the inherent flaws can be detected and recommendations made accordingly.
Experts said the current social security system is complex and wide-ranging. There are 145 programmes that are financed from the national budget and administered by 23 line ministries and divisions. Their monitoring though is done through a centralised system.
Shamsul Alam, member (senior secretary) of the General Economics Division of the planning ministry, said the social safety net programmes (SSNPs) have been an integral part of the antipoverty strategy of the government.
In fiscal 2008-09, the allocation for SSNPs was Tk 13,845 crore or 1.96 percent of the country's gross domestic product, Alam said in his keynote presentation.
This fiscal year, the allocation increased to Tk 37,546 crore, or 2.19 percent of GDP, with about a fourth of the households brought under its coverage.
The increased allocation has paid off as the country's poverty incidence fell from 48.9 percent in 2000 to 24.8 percent in 2015, he said.
The percentage of chronic poor (the population below the lower poverty line) fell from 34.3 in 2000 to 12.9 in 2015.
SSNPs also played a prominent role in reducing the inequality scenario from 2005 to 2010.
Despite this success, 39 million people still live below the upper poverty line in Bangladesh and 20 million below the lower poverty line.
So, the present system is running with a number of challenges, Alam said.
Citing examples of schemes that targeted poor families and individuals, he said a high proportion of the poorest are excluded, while others who are ineligible are included.
About 33 percent of the recipients of the Old Age Allowance appear to be below the age of eligibility, he said.
The procedures of identifying disabilities need strengthening and consistent application nationwide, he added..
Admitting weakness in the selection process, Alam said the system lacks a formal monitoring and evaluation arrangement.
Considering this weakness, the government has recently approved the National Social Security Strategy (NSSS) to consolidate the on‐going programmes, emphasise a 'lifecycle approach' and incorporate social insurance schemes as well as private voluntary pensions.
Mohammad Mejbahuddin, senior secretary to the Economic Relations Division, chaired the session, highlighted the monitoring and evaluation of the social security schemes.
He said the government can think of third party monitoring for effective implementation of the programmes.
Tariq-Ul-Islam, secretary of the social welfare ministry, said the social safety net has been diversified over the years.
Now, poor patients with liver cirrhosis can take financial assistance under a social safety net scheme, he added.
Bijoy Bhattacharjee, additional secretary of the Cabinet Division; Sarah Cooke, country representative of the UK's Department for International Development; and Haoliang Xu, assistant administrator and director of the United Nations Development Programme, also spoke.