A staggering two-thirds of the 50 lakh poor families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic are yet to receive Tk 2,500 each in cash support because of the flawed list although they have been languishing in poverty for the last three months.
The government has managed to disburse funds among 16.16 lakh targeted people, according to a position paper prepared by the finance division. The document has been sent to the Prime Minister's Office.
Another 2.17 lakh beneficiaries are set to receive the cash support.
After the government put in place the countrywide shutdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it allocated Tk 1,250 crore for the 50 lakh poor families whose breadwinners have lost their jobs because of the lockdown.
In order to execute the task properly, another Tk 8 crore was released. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the fund disbursement on May 14.
Rickshaw and van-pullers, day labourers, construction workers, agriculture farmers, employees of shops, people employed at small businesses, poultry labourers and transport workers are supposed to be the targeted beneficiaries. They would get the cash support through accounts of mobile financial services (MFSs).
MFS services Nagad, bKash, Rocket and SureCash were given the responsibility to transfer the funds to 17 lakh, 15 lakh, 10 lakh and eight lakh account-holders respectively.
The information and communications technology division and the disaster and relief management ministry compiled the list of the potential beneficiaries from across the country and sent it to the finance division.
The finance ministry receives the lists from the offices of the deputy commissioners and then these lists are verified and evaluated further by the disaster management and relief ministry, according to a paper of the Centre for Policy Dialogue.
Bangladesh's safety net schemes are historically marred by fragmentation, weak targeting and inefficiency and the weaknesses were again manifested at a time when the poor have been facing possibly the worst crisis in their lives.
The finance division cross-checked the list with other available databases and struck off the names of 493,200 people for anomalies.
Of them, 107,386 are the beneficiaries of other social safety net schemes and 2,855 are government officials. Some 79,621 are stated as vagabonds, housewives, boatmen, street urchins, disabled, imams of mosques, tea labourers, tea stall owners, beggars and unemployed.
The most depressing is there were 557 people in the list who each owned Tk 5 lakh in savings certificates. There were 6,786 pensioners and 295,919 names were included for more than once, the position paper showed.
The finance division also found inconsistency in information about 22.86 lakh people. This prompted the PMO on June 15 to order the upazila nirbahi officers (UNOs) to rectify the list. The list was sent to the UNOs.
The list includes 8.29 lakh people who did not have a registered mobile phone number against the NID and 6.38 lakh people have mobile phone numbers different from those registered with the NID.
There are 7.98 lakh people whose NID number and the date of births are not similar to the database of the Election Commission.
If the anomalies are corrected from field level, it would be possible to disburse the funds, the paper said.
The finance division recommended identifying the mobile phone numbers that are being used by the potential beneficiaries and opening Tk 10-account under the supervision of the upazila administration if the targeted groups don't have mobile phone numbers against the NID or smart cards.
It also called for examining properly the NID or smart cards and the date of birth, writing the mobile phone numbers in exact format and stating the exact occupation of the beneficiaries.
A new list of 879,350 people would have to be prepared now.
"The finance ministry and the ICT division are working on it. We would get the new lists from the district and upazila administrations very soon. Hopefully, the issue would be resolved very quickly," Disaster Management and Relief Secretary Md Mohsin told The Daily Star yesterday.
Meanwhile, the central bank has ordered banks to open Tk 10 deposit accounts on the basis of the NID or smart cards and certification by the UNOs for the people who do not have mobile phones or can't open MFS accounts.
Steps have to be taken to disburse the funds through a debit voucher if no cheque book is available, the central bank said in a circular on July 6.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, earnings of 51 per cent households plunged to zero while a massive 95 per cent people suffered losses in income, according to a survey of Brac.
Around 62 per cent of low-income wage earners lost their work opportunities after the public holiday was declared in late March, it showed.
Due to the income shock emanating from the pandemic, 77.2 per cent of the vulnerable non-poor fell below the poverty line.
This would imply that beyond the 20.5 per cent of the population officially recognised as poor there is a group of 'new poor' representing an additional 22.9 per cent of the population that needed to be brought within the discussion on poverty, it said.
About 13 per cent people have become unemployed in the country due to the pandemic, according to a survey of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
As per the report findings, 19.23 per cent of participants with income less than Tk 5,000 reported that their income was reduced by 75 per cent.
Another 23.31 per cent participants with income between Tk 5000 and Tk 15,000 reported an income reduction by 50 per cent relative to last month's income, news agency UNB reported. The BIDS conducted the survey from May 5 to 29.