Outlay for pension schemes on the rise
The government's spending on pensioners, who are covered by social safety net programmes, has been on the rise, eating into the outlay for poverty reduction initiatives through such schemes.
The government set aside more than Tk 11,584 crore for the retirees in the proposed budget, the amount being nearly 31 percent of the total allocation for the safety net schemes.
The share was 28 percent in the current fiscal year's revised budget and 22.94 percent in fiscal 2011-12. “Safety net schemes are mainly for poverty alleviation,” said Hossain Zillur Rahman, executive chairman of Power and Participation Research Centre, a think tank that works on poverty and social protection issues.
“Though pensioners have no direct link with the objectives of the safety net schemes, they come under the social protection and security in many countries due to their vulnerability,” said Rahman, also a former adviser to a caretaker government.
The budgetary allocation for the programmes has gone up over the years, but still it is well below the target -- 3 percent of GDP -- set in the sixth five-year plan.
Spending on the schemes will be 2.19 percent of GDP in the upcoming fiscal year, up from 2.02 percent this year, according to the finance ministry.
The government has also raised the number of beneficiaries for different programmes in the proposed budget, which analysts said would not be effective without increasing the allowances for the beneficiaries.
For example, the number of beneficiaries for old age allowances rose to 30 lakh from 27.23 lakh, and for insolvent disabled persons' allowances to six lakh from four lakh. “The old age allowance at Tk 300 per person per month is not enough. It should be raised to Tk 1,000,” said Monzur Hossain, senior research fellow at Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
Currently, older people account for 7 percent of the country's total population.
Hossain said the allowances for women should also be increased, especially for the women who head households. He said 15 percent of the total households in the country are women-led.