Safety net set to widen
The number of beneficiaries, who get allowances and food from the government under various social safety net programmes (SSNPs), will be increased by nearly seven lakh in the 2017-18 financial year.
With the next general election little over a year away, the government plans to bring more people under social safety net.
Following the inclusion of new beneficiaries, the total number of people under major social safety net programmes would stand at 86 lakh. The budgetary allocation for SSNPs would also mark a rise, said finance ministry sources.
In the outgoing fiscal (2016-17), the government allocated Tk 45,230 crore in social protection and empowerment, which is 13.28 percent of the total budget and 2.31 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
In the next national budget, the largest increase in number of beneficiaries would be made under the Old Age Allowance programme. According to finance ministry officials, some 31.50 lakh people now receive Tk 500 each a month under the scheme. The government is set to increase the number of beneficiaries to 35 lakh and raise the allowance to Tk 600.
Around 11.50 lakh women currently receive Tk 500 each a month under the “Allowances for the Widow, Deserted and Destitute Women” programme. The government plans to increase the amount to Tk 600 and the number of beneficiaries to 12.65 lakh.
A recently released study of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) shows that the number of divorced, widowed and deserted women increased to 10 percent of the total women in the country, up by 1.5 percent from 2013.
In the next fiscal year, the government will increase the number of beneficiaries under the “Maternity Allowance Programme for the Poor” from five lakh to six lakh. It also plans to raise the allowance from Tk 500 a month to Tk 700 a month.
Some 75,000 more people will be entitled to get “Allowances for the Financially Insolvent Disabled” in the next fiscal as the government has decided to increase the number of beneficiaries from 7.50 lakh to 8.25 lakh. Besides, each beneficiary would get an enhanced allowance of Tk 700 instead of Tk 600 per month.
Though the government is keeping unchanged the number of VGD (vulnerable group development) beneficiaries at 10 lakh, it plans to give Tk 200 as cash savings to each of them on top of 30 kilograms of rice they're currently entitled to each month.
Instead of giving food to tea workers, the government plans to provide them with monthly cash handouts of Tk 5,000 each.
Besides, some other ongoing social safety net programmes like open market sale (OMS), vulnerable group feeding (VGF), test relief (TR), food for work (FFW), work for money (WFM) and employment generation programme for the poor will continue in the next fiscal.
Some 23 ministries have been running over 100 social safety net programmes. There have been complains of pilferage, corrupt practices and overlapping in SSNPs.
Traditionally, the government incorporates retired public servants' pensions in the SSNP budget. This accounts for more than a third of the total allocation for the safety net programmes.