Despite a sizeable social safety net, food distribution failed miserably during the countrywide shutdown meant to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
It was due to the failure in providing food support for the poorest sections of the population that the government was compelled to relax the shutdown although the pandemic is quite evidently only beginning to peak in Bangladesh.
The government has allocated Tk 95,574 crore in the social safety net programmes, which is 16.83 percent of total budget and 3.01 percent of GDP in FY 2020-21. In last year's revised budget, the allocation was Tk. 81,865 crore.
"We have been increasing the allocation in the social security sector every year to improve the lives of the poor. By now, about one-fourth of families in the country have been brought under the social security programme," Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal read in the budget speech.
Economist Hossain Zillur Rahman, also a former adviser to a caretaker government, told The Daily Star that if civil pension is excluded from the social safety net then it would be around 1.5 to 1.6 percent of total GDP.
"Due to pandemic, the number of urban poor has increased and they should be included in the social safety net programme. Specific programme is needed for the new poor," he said.
Zillur also said the main factor is how the budget allocation is distributed as this will determine the benefits of the social safety net.