Safety net outlay to go up 16pc

The allocation for safety net programmes is set to rise about 16 percent year-on-year to Tk 43,500 crore in the upcoming budget.

As a percentage of gross domestic product, the allocation for fiscal 2016-17 is not much of an improvement over the current year's: it will stand at 2.22 percent of GDP in contrast to 2.19 percent this year.

Given the recent fall in fuel prices, economists said the allocation for the 140 safety net programmes under the development and non-development budgets should have been raised more.

The government last year prepared a national social security strategy to bring all vulnerable citizens under the social safety net.

The plan did not materialise due to a fund crunch, said a finance ministry official. “But, it will be implemented gradually,” he added.

However, in fiscal 2016-17, there will be various cash transfer programmes including allowance for the elderly and physically challenged people.

At present, Tk 5,364 crore has been allocated for 18 programmes under the social safety net scheme, which will be increased by more than Tk 1,000 crore in the upcoming fiscal year, said an official of the social welfare ministry.

Of the schemes, the biggest one is for the elderly, and the number of beneficiaries will increase 5 percent or by 1.5 lakh in the next budget.

At present, the total number of beneficiaries for old-age allowance is 30 lakh. Each beneficiary gets Tk 400 per month, and from next fiscal year it will be Tk 500.

More than one crore people will qualify for old age allowance if all poor people above 60 years were to be brought under the social safety net scheme.

The government in the National Social Security Strategy plan also recommended giving Tk 800 as allowance per month to the beneficiaries.

Introduced in 1997-98 with four lakh beneficiaries who got Tk 100 each, Bangladesh's old-age allowance scheme has one of the lowest transfer values in the world.

It is well below the value of Nepal's senior citizens' allowance programme.

Due to fund constraints, the old-age allowance programme could not be expanded as much as the plan recommends, but efforts are ongoing to raise it gradually, said the finance ministry official.

The allowances for the widow, deserted and destitute women will be raised to Tk 500 from existing Tk 400 in the forthcoming year.

The number of beneficiaries under the programme, whose allocation is Tk 360 crore this year, will be increased to 7.5 lakh next fiscal year from existing 6 lakh. The programme started in fiscal 2005-06 with a budget of Tk 25 crore; each person was given Tk 200 per month then. The allocation for it is Tk 360 crore.

The maternity allowance programme for the poor lactating women will be extended to all municipalities next fiscal year. At present, the scheme is being run in 10 municipalities.

The fund to provide assistance to cancer, kidney and liver cirrhosis patients will be raised by Tk 10 crore to Tk 30 crore.


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