Social safety net shrinks
Allocations for the social safety net programmes (SSNPs) in terms of total budget and gross domestic product (GDP) have gone down in the proposed budget.
The number of beneficiaries has also got reduced by 40 lakhs to 7.68 crore.
However, formation of a monitoring committee as per demand from analysts and economists to avoid duplication of programmes often being overlapped with one another and developing a database of the beneficiaries have been termed as good moves to make the programmes effective and sustainable.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith proposed an allocation of Tk 22,556 crore for SSNPs for fiscal year 2011-12, which is 13.79 percent of the national budget and 2.51 percent of the GDP.
Allocations for SSNPs were Tk 19,497 crore in the outgoing fiscal year and the figure was revised at Tk 20,893.52 crore, which is over 16 percent of that year's budget and 2.64 percent of GDP. Spending for SSNPs was Tk 16,706 crore in 2009-10 and Tk 12,198 crore in 2008-09.
The number of beneficiaries has gone down to 7.68 crore for the next fiscal year from revised 8.08 crore in the outgoing year.
"It seems the government has emphasised implementation of the programmes," said Prof Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of Centre for Policy Dialogue.
The government currently runs a total of 84 programmes under the SSNPs. In the proposed budget, a number of new programmes have also been introduced to reach out to the poor.
Some of the important programmes are implementation of One House One Farm Project, introduction of Returning Home Programme, establishment of Disabled Service and Assistance Centre and Child Development Centre, formulation of a Ration Distribution Policy for freedom fighters and enhancement of their allowances and increased amount of allowance and coverage of the beneficiaries under the safety net programmes.
Social safety nets, or "socioeconomic safety nets", seek to prevent the poor or those vulnerable to shocks and poverty. On average, spending on safety nets accounts for 1 to 2 percent of GDP across developing and transition countries.
Safety nets in low-income countries like Bangladesh are increasingly being recognised as effective tools to reach out to the most vulnerable groups.
Common interventions vary from public works and food-based interventions to more recently cash and conditional cash transfer programmes.
Major SSNPs are employment generation programme for the hardcore poor, vulnerable group development (VGD), vulnerable group feeding (VGD), old age allowance, rural maintenance programme, freedom fighters' allowance, open market sale (OMS), test relief, gratuitous relief, food for work, allowance for the financially insolvent disabled, etc.
"Formation of a monitoring committee and development of a database will be very helpful to make SSNPs effective and sustainable," said Rahman of CPD.
He hailed the government for introducing a pension insurance scheme, which he termed a move to social protection from social safety net.