Dhaka, Friday, 23 July 2021

4pc allocation of GDP sought for social safety net

4pc allocation of GDP sought for social safety net

Apparel Correspondent: Economic analysts and development experts have demanded an increase in allocations to the government's social safety net scheme as many people have fallen below the poverty line due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, they called for preparing a database as soon as possible to ensure that genuinely eligible people can access social safety net schemes.

The call came at a webinar jointly organized by the Development Journalists Forum of Bangladesh (DJFB) and the Action for Social Development (ASD), a non-governmental organization (NGO), on Saturday, January 30.

Dr Nazneen Ahmed, Senior Research Fellow of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) presented the keynote paper at the webinar titled: “Covid-19: Social Security Schemes, Health Security” where Planning Minister MA Mannan joined as the chief guest.

Among others, Mofidul Islam, Chief of General Economics Department (GED), Planning Commission, Jamil H Chowdhury, Executive Director, ASD, Humayun Kabir, President, DJFB, Shah Mobin Jinnah, NGO Organizer, Mumtaz Ara Begum, SM Harun, Rashid Lal, Dr Zahid Masood, Rabia Binte Karim and others spoke on the occasion.

DJFB Executive Committee Member Sushant Sinha conducted the webinar.

The speakers said that a large part of the money allocated in the social safety net in the budget every year goes to the pensions of government employees. As a result, the amount of social safety net allocation to low-income people is very low.

Therefore, they have proposed to allocate four per cent of the total GDP in the social safety net in the budget.

Dr Nazneen Ahmed said that due to COVID -19, many people have fallen below the poverty line. It is important to include them in social safety net programs. To do that, we need to increase the allocation of funds in this sector.

Planning Minister MA Mannan said the government is providing cash assistance to the poor people under social safety net schemes every month to deal with COVID-19 pandemic. However, the amount of money is less, only Tk500. This money is benefiting poor people. I will try my best to increase it to Tk1,000.

Mofidul Islam said the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which is announced by the United Nations aims to reduce poverty to zero by 2030. To implement it, the government has taken various measures to reduce the poverty rate. The 8th five-year plan has put more focus on combating COVID-19 impacts.

Jamil H Chowdhury said many people in Bangladesh have gone into debt after the COVID-19 outbreak in March last year. The government has many social safety net programs. However, these are village-centric. There are no city-centric programs. How fragile the country's healthcare was during COVID-19 has come to light. We don't know how many poor people have tested themselves for COVID-19. There is also concern about how low-income people will get priority in getting vaccinated.

He also urged to increase the allocation both in the health and social safety net sector.

For the current fiscal year, the government has allocated a total of Tk 95,564 crore or GDP’s 3 per cent on social protection. A large portion of that money is going to government officials’ pension scheme. Only 1.24 per cent of the total GDP is allocated for the poor.