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Budget allocation for social safety net

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14th-Jun-2018       
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Dr. M Abul Kashem Mozumder and Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque :
The social safety net is comprised of services rendered by the state or other institutions such as NGOs, civil societies. and the philanthropist friendly to the  distress and  the helpless.. "The term Social Safety Net is also used in a broader context to mean any programme that provides benefits to individuals or families. This broad definition includes socials ecurity, medicare and unemployment. In this context the Social Safety Net is made up of both contributory and noncontributory Programs." Social welfare services are normally rendered by 'a community of individuals at the state and local levels. These services are geared toward eliminating poverty in a specific areas. Social safety net works in conjunction with a number of other poverty reduction programs'
Budget 2018-2019 allocates Tk 64,656 crore for social safety net as has been reported by Dhaka tribune:
The government's proposed budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year is the biggest ever in the country's history and significantly increases the volume and coverage of the social safety net.
In his budget speech at parliament on Thursday, Finance Minister AMA Muhith said the government wants to increase the allocation of funds and number of beneficiaries in different schemes for the next fiscal year, with an aim to improve the living standard of the poor and underprivileged.
This allocation has been raised to Tk64,656 crore in FY2018-19, which is 2.55% of GDP and 13.92% of the total budget.
In the outgoing 2017-18 fiscal, the government allocated Tk54,206 crore for this program, which was 13.50% of the total budget. The total allocation of the government's social safety net scheme for the fiscal year 2016-17 was Tk45,230 crore. The finance minister proposed to increase the number of recipients of old age allowances to 4 million from 3.5 million, widow and oppressed women allowances to 1.4 million from 1.2 million, disability allowances to 1 million from 825,000, stipends for students with disabilities from 80,000 to 90,000, and maternity allowances to 700,000 from 600,000.
The number of beneficiaries of special allowances and stipends for the Bede and the underprivileged communities is proposed to increase to 64,000 from 36,000. Of them, the number of beneficiaries for special allowances will be increased to 40,000 from 23,000 and that for special allowances to 19,000 from 11,000.
The minister also proposed to raise the allowance for working lactating mothers to Tk800 from Tk500 per month and extending the term of the allowance to 3 years from 2 years.
Besides, the number of beneficiaries will be increased to 2.5 lakh from 2 lakh.
We admit it hundred percent that coverage of social safety has been enhanced even then it constitutes 1 per cent of GDP. But the allocation is not sufficient as the budget is mega budget.  Allocation for development project is robust. We think mega budget should turn into a mega allocation for the safety net. This will enable the government to reduce poverty and unemployment of the youth.
The government of Bangladesh has pursued a policy of poverty reduction policy 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.

(Dr. M Abul Kashem Mozumder, Pro-VC, BUP and Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque, Retired Professor, Chittagong University).

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