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Effective implementation of safety net programme

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14th-Apr-2018       
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Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque :
The government of Bangladesh has pursued a policy of poverty reduction in response to  global interventions like MDG and SDG. Public policies inherent in five-year plans, two-year interim plan, participatory perspective plan (PPP), Annual development Plan (ADP), local level plans, and Annual budgets intend to address the contemporary challenges of development. Research on the problematic receiving institutional attention as policy issues over a last couple of decades sets the agenda of policy development with allocative mechanism redistributive polices, governance and humanitarian considerations. The tremendous task for the policy makers is to grapple with the challenges of the new millennium through potent policy devices.  Sustainably context is the latest  fashion of development intervention to stress  reducing poverty through safety net. Each successive government produced both mega and mini policies embracing various sectors of development. Some showed a lot of promises commensurate with public interests and some turned out to be counterproductive. Policy priorities have changed amidst 'newer problems' and demands'. At times old issues are left hanging around. (Zafarullah et.al. 1994: vii). same time, as many surveys and much citizen action demonstrate, effective and accountable governance is also seen by many as an important end in itself. Since the MDGs, many Member States have entered into global or regional agreements that involve commitments to improve governance, as well as human rights, peace building, rule of law and transparency. For smart implementation the  government has attached utmost importance to the food security, to ensure sustainable development. Regarding the continuation of the SSNPs, initiated by the present government, he assured that as long as this government is in power, "there would be no break in the funding of this programme."
The lawmaker, however, acknowledged the presence of political influence in the selection process of the beneficiaries and termed the card distribution process as "problematic." He asked all stakeholders to help the government formulate a strategy to select the poorest communities and an effective payment disbursement method. Although the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) did not include a goal or targets on governance, the Millennium Declaration, adopted by the world's leaders in 2000, recognized the vital link between good governance, development and human rights. Based on over a decade of experience with development progress and challenges, there are now widely accepted arguments that governance should play a stronger role in the post-2015 development agenda: effective governance institutions and systems that are responsive to public needs deliver essential services and promote inclusive growth, while inclusive political processes ensure that citizens can hold public officials to account. In addition, good governance promotes freedom from violence, fear and crime, and peaceful and secure societies that provide the stability needed for development investments to be sustained. Social Safety Net (SSN) refers to the programmes mainly undertaken by the state to assist the poor and the disadvantaged of the community. In Bangladesh, no such programme was there during the nineteen seventies except for some food assisted activities. There were nothing-called unemployment benefits, which are given in advanced countries and later introduced in Bangladesh.
However, in recent time, SSN programmes have witnessed considerable expansion in terms of coverage, scope and types. The various programmes consist of three main types: food assistance programmes, cash benefits and other poverty alleviation activities.
poverty reduction strategic papers (FY 2009-11) identified as many as eighteen SSN programmes that fall within the cash allowance or other support categories. These are enumerated below:
Old Age Allowance' According to official records about 7 percent of the population or about 10 million people are elderly. Out of this only 2 million or 20 percent of the people are under this safety net. This means that much remains to be done.
Allowance for the widowed and distressed women' The total beneficiaries are about 0.7 million which also indicates rather low coverage.
Allowance for the distressed persons with disabilities' The coverage is rather low at 200 thousand persons.
Maternity-allowance for poor mothers' As in other cases, the coverage is low but it has to be borne in mind that the programme is being implemented in phases. Introduced in 2007-08, it plans to cover 3 thousand unions or 15 mothers per union.
Honourarium for freedom fighters' Under this programme, the crippled freedom fighters are given cash allowance. It covers nearly 10,000 beneficiaries.
Programmes for the orphans' This programme consists of two streams. First relates to state-owned orphanages. The second relates to non-government orphanages. Under the first, a littlie more than ten thousand orphans are covered. In the latter, the beneficiaries are about 45,000.
Subsidy for fuel' Under this programme, owing to rise in the prices of petroleum, marginal farmers are provided diesel at subsidized prices for irrigation. Total budget in FY 2008 was Tk 7.5 billion.
Stipend for primary students' The programme aims to cover 5.5 million students of the primary level across the country. The budget for FY 2008 was Tk 5 billion.
Stipend for drop out students' The coverage is about 500,000 students of primary level with a budget of Tk 5.89 billion in FY 2008.
Stipend for girl students' Under this programme about 3 million girl students are covered with a budget of Tk 232.48 billion FY 2008.
Stipend for students with disabilities' Poor students with disabilities are covered under this programme with varying scales of allowance. The budget in FY 2007-08 was Tk 50 million.
Fund for garment workers training and support' This is a new programme included for the retrenched workers of government sector in 2007/08. The total budget was Tk 200 million.
Temporary unemployment removal' Under this programme, in FY 2008, Tk 500 million was allocated to assist people facing seasonal unemployment in five north western districts known as Monga-hit areas.
Employment Programme for the hardcore poor' In FY 2008 again, Tk one billion was spent for generating employment programme for the hardcore poor. This was later in the same year given institutional shape with a total outlay of Tk 20 billion. The first phase was completed and the programme is expected to continue.
Disaster affected farmers' fund' Under this programme, the total allocation in FY 2008 was Tk one billion to help disaster affected farms to cope with loss of jobs and decline in wage rate.
Rural Mother Centre (RMC) This is in the form of interest free micro-credit for distressed rural mothers. The beneficiaries are about 12,965 in 318 Upazilas. There are provisions for training in primary health care, family planning and informal education.
Maternal health voucher scheme' The programme is implemented by the ministry of Health and Family Welfare with a total budget of Tk 1.26 billion in FY 2008.
Community nutrition programme' This is a programme for improving the nutritional stays of the poor. It had an allocation of Tk 1.58 billion in FY 2008. The programme covers 105 upazilas in 34 districts and about 28.6 million people through 23,244 Community Nutrition Centres (CNCs).
Food assisted programmes are mainly of two types, the age-old Test Relief (TR) and the Food for works (FFW) Programme. FFW again has two separate streams such as Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) and Vulnerable Group Development (VGD). The former is given free of cost, VGD, however has elements like group formation, training and skill building including savings.  Various types of SSN cash and food serve about 8.5 million families benefiting 42.5 million people all over the country in 2008-09. This does not include TR and FFW. Together these two programmes serve about 9.3 million through utilising food in lieu of work. The type of work is largely limited to building, repairing and maintaining rural infrastructure.
It is estimated that in 2008-09, the largest percentage of beneficiaries in VGF (28) followed by employment generation through cash payment (9.9) and the VGD (3.7). Although other programmes cover the rest of the beneficiaries, their individual share remains below one percent. (Banglapedia). Safety net project  is there now in operation in Srilanka under the title SSNP. The implementation of the SSNPs in Bangladesh may have some impact on the micro economy, but these do not have any impact on the macro economy of the country." He suggested that government should match the national annual budget with the Medium Term Budgetary Framework, and ensure transparency in the monitoring and information system for effective implementation of the EGHP programme.Social Protection Economist of the World Bank, also a Designated Discussant, suggested that since 95 per cent unions have the banking facility, wage payment can be made through these banks. He also noted that in such cases it will be easier for the beneficiaries to use the mobile phone banking system.

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