The World Bank yesterday signed an agreement with Bangladesh giving $245 million to help the country improve equity, efficiency and transparency of its major safety net programmes.
The additional financing to the Safety Net Systems for the Poorest Project will help improve beneficiary targeting, information management, and benefit payment of the country's five large safety net schemes, said the WB in a statement.
The programmes are: the Employment Generation Programme for the Poorest, the Work for Money, the Test Relief, the Vulnerable Group Feeding, and the Gratuitous Relief.
Implemented by the disaster management department, the programmes collectively reach over nine million poor and vulnerable households.
With this additional financing, the WB support to the project now stands at $745 million.
In 2016-17, Bangladesh spent about $3.5 billion on social protection, which was about 1.4 percent of the country's gross domestic product.
To ensure effective use of public resources, the WB is supporting the country to build common digital platforms to better administer safety net programmes, said the lender.
“An integrated social protection service delivery system will help ensure equity, build resilience and create opportunities for the poorest population,” said Qimiao Fan, WB country director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.
“At the same time, it will reduce administrative efforts, costs and errors.”
He said efficient and transparent delivery of social assistance to the right households at the right time would help Bangladesh reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity.
Currently, only the Employment Generation Programme for the Poorest is administered with a management information system. The programme also pilots digital payment of benefits to the target beneficiaries. The financing will ensure digitisation of other safety net programmes and scale up digital payments using various technologies, said the statement.
The WB said the financing would also help the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics to complete the country's first universal poverty registry, the National Household Database.
The database will be integrated with information systems of various ministries and agencies for beneficiary selection purposes.
For this, the BBS has already completed data collection in Barisal, Rangpur and part of Mymensingh divisions. This month, the BBS will start data collection in Dhaka and Chittagong divisions.
“The government of Bangladesh is committed to strengthening its safety net management and oversight capabilities by developing an integrated social protection service delivery system, in line with recommendations of the National Social Security Strategy 2015,” said Kazi Shofiqul Azam, secretary of the Economic Relations Division.
“The additional financing is a critical milestone in this process.”
Azam and Fan signed the agreement on behalf of the respective parties at the ERD. The credit is from the International Development Association, the WB's concessional lending arm. The credits are interest-free and repayable in 38 years, including a six-year grace period, and carry a service charge of 0.75 percent.
In recent years, Bangladesh has been the largest recipient of the WB's interest-free credits.