Published in The Daily Star on Thursday, 3 June 2016
Good news for safety net beneficiaries
Good news for the beneficiaries of the social safety net programmes (SSNPs).
The government has increased their monthly allowance in the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
The allocations for the programmes and the number of their beneficiaries have also been raised
The beneficiaries are, among others, pension holders, old people, widows, oppressed and destitute women, disabled and transgender people, and other members of backward communities.
The government also for the first time has started implementing the National Social Security Strategy (NSSS) to make the SSNPs target-oriented.
The beneficiaries of the programmes will now directly receive the disbursements through electronic means, resulting in timely and speedy delivery of services, and boosting the financial inclusion process.
The proposed budget has allocated Tk 43,500 crore, up by nearly 16 percent year-on-year, for all SSNPs.
As a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), the allocation has not increased that much in comparison with the outgoing year’s. It is now 2.22 percent of the GDP from 2.19 percent a year ago.
Tk 16,915 crore or more than a third of this year’s allocation has been kept for pension and retirement benefits of government employees and their families.
For this purpose, Tk 11,144 crore was spent in the outgoing year.
The number of beneficiaries of old age allowances has been increased to 31.50 lakh from present 30 lakh. Their monthly allowance has been raised to Tk 500 from Tk 400.
Analysts say more than one crore people will qualify for old age allowances if all poor people above 60 were to be brought under the scheme.
The allowances for widows, oppressed, and destitute women have been raised to Tk 500 from Tk 400. The number of such beneficiaries has been increased by 37,000 to 11.50 lakh.
The number of destitute women benefiting from vulnerable group development (VGD) programme rose to 10 lakh from 7.5 lakh.
The number of beneficiaries of maternity allowances was increased by 90 percent to 5 lakh.
The budget also proposed to increase the allowance for financially insolvent disabled people to Tk 600, up by Tk 100. Again, the number of such beneficiaries has been increased to 7.5 lakh.
Allowances for transgender people, and bedes and other members of backward communities were increased by Tk 100 to Tk 600 and Tk 500 respectively.
The budget has also proposed to bring a total of 180,300 poor mothers under the umbrella of Working Lactating Mother Assistance Programme by extending it for all municipalities from present 10 municipalities.
The government has also increased the allocation for tea labourers to Tk 15 crore from Tk 10 crore and Tk 30 crore for patients suffering from cancer, kidney diseases, liver cirrhosis, stroke-related paralysis and congenital heart diseases from previous Tk 20 crore.
Another Tk. 10.5 crore has been allocated to Neuro-Developmental Disability Protection Trust Fund.
Prof Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), welcomed the government’s move to raise the allocations.
He, however, said, “There is a slight improvement in wastage and leakage in social safety nets in recent times, but that’s not enough.”
The programmes can be implemented in a better way if the government engages the local government bodies with the process, he added.
He also said the allocation for 140 safety net programmes under the development and non-development budgets should have been bigger.
The total allocation shows it is 2.2 percent of the GDP, but if the outlay for pension schemes is deducted, it would stand at only around 1.7 percent of the GDP.