The World Bank (WB) yesterday approved a $300 million project to help improve transparency and efficiency of Bangladesh's major cash transfer programmes targeting about five million financially insolvent elderly persons, widows and people with disabilities.
The Cash Transfer Modernisation Project will help the Department of Social Services shift the programmes' operating processes from a manual, paper-based system to an automated, integrated, and electronically managed one, according to a WB statement.
“Bangladesh has cut by half the number of people living in extreme poverty. This is a remarkable achievement. Yet many people remain poor and vulnerable,” said Qimiao Fan, WB country director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.
“The WB is helping the government modernise its safety net programmes by improving pro-poor targeting, streamlining administrative systems, and addressing programme fragmentations. This will help reach people in need and use public resources more effectively,” the statement says.
The project will help upgrade the department's management information systems identifying potential benefit recipients and integrate the system with the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics' national household database.
For more secure and accessible payments to beneficiaries, the system will be linked to payment service providers.
Using existing digital systems, the project will further develop an integrated social protection service delivery system, help build human resource capacity and improve citizen engagement.
“Since 2016, the Department of Social Services has been digitising programme records and piloting digital payments to programme beneficiaries. The project will scale up these efforts,” said Yoonyoung Cho, task team leader of the WB.
“These actions are in line with the institutional enhancements outlined in the National Social Security Strategy, 2015. This will help place the Ministry of Social Welfare at the forefront of social protection service delivery.”
With this project, the WB's total commitment in the social protection sector stands at over $1.3 billion.
The credit is from the International Development Association, the WB's concessional lending arm, interest-free, repayable in 38 years, including a six-year grace period, and carries a service charge of 0.75 percent.
Till date the WB has committed close to $27 billion interest-free credits to Bangladesh, making it one of the largest recipients of interest-free credit in recent years.