Published in Dhaka Tribune on Sunday, 4 June 2017
A budget that’s not so friendly to women
The proposed budget has announced the allocations for women in 43 ministries where only three of them has seen an increase while 12 has seen a significant decrease in the budget allocation
Even though the proposed budget for the fiscal year of 2017-18 is the biggest Bangladesh has ever seen, it has significantly reduced the amount allocated for women and women’s development which will disable half the population from participating in the formal economy.
Farah Kabir, country director of Action Aid said: “It is alarming how the allocation for women has decreased in the budget. Women cannot join the formal economy because they are simply deprived of the opportunity.”
The proposed budget has announced the allocations for women in 43 ministries where only three of them has seen an increase while 12 has seen a significant decrease in the budget allocation.
Farah Kabir thinks this is not the best way for the country to move forward as it needs trained and empowered women to push the economy and the country into the middle income bracket that Bangladesh is aiming for.
The 12 ministries that have seen a decreased allocation includes education, health, science and technology, agriculture, disaster management and relief, election commission, information and communication technology, energy and mineral resources, Ministry of Land, and Ministry of Liberation War Affairs.
Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Debapriya Bhattacharya opined that Bangladesh has yet to fully conceptualise the role women are going to play in its development.
This has perhaps caused the haphazard allocation of funds in the proposed budget, for example the budget for the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education for the FY2016-17 was Tk1,0938cr where 49.35% was set aside for women, whereas the budget for FY 2017-18 has seen only 47.19% set aside for women in education.
Similar things can be seen for secondary and higher education budget which has seen a decrease from Tk8,625cr to Tk7,234cr in the budget for women.
Debapriya Bhattacharya commended the gender budget but also pointed out that there is a serious lack of understanding regarding the role women can play in meeting Bangladesh’s development goals.
“The fact that we are doing a gender budget is a recognition of the productive role women play in our economy and society. It is a marker of progress and policy making. The point is, the current instrument we use to assess the financial contribution towards gender development is inadequate because it is done in a very instrumentalist and mechanical way by adding up certain ministries’ budget allocations.
“It also misses out on how the allocations in the budget in the ministries are supporting women and development. In some ways it creates a ghettoized concept of women’s issues. So the important thing is to analyse the allocation of each of the ministries through the gender lens,” said CPD fellow Debapriya.
In Rural Development and Co-operation Division, the budget allocation has decreased from Tk636cr to Tk534cr. In the Law and Justice Division, the allocation for women has decreased from Tk205cr to Tk163cr.
Statistic from the Gender Budget Report shows women’s participation in administration department of the govt offices has decreased in the last fiscal year 2016-17.
This is also been the case for women in higher positions in almost all sectors last year, according to the report which also shows that a decline in enrollment of girls in schools as well.
Selima Ahmed, president of the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) said: “There are fewer women in higher posts because they usually do not bribe their way into it. Women are generally for more motivated but the problem is we need a quota system to get them to the position they deserve. The budget needs to reflect this.
“We need a gender sensitive society where law enforcers and the government need to instill those values in everyone. The budget needs to have the inclusion of women in insurance, maternity, and disaster management.
“There should have a monitoring system and policy for the budget which is allocated to women. Also in every sector, especially in education, health and empowerment and in all other ministries the budget allocation for women needs to be increased.”