Beefing social safety-net programme

Dhaka,  Thu,  29 June 2017
Published : 14 May 2017, 21:12:55
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Beefing social safety-net programme

Social safety-net benefits do not reach 25 per cent to 50 per cent of real recipients because of corruption, wrong targeting and leakage. The authorities have to ensure that the allocated fund reach the beneficiaries in a transparent and regular manner
It augurs well for the ultra-poor that the government is reportedly working for raising both the number of beneficiaries and budgetary allocations for them under the social safety-net programmes during the 2017-18 fiscal year. As reports have it, elderly persons and widows will get substantial monetary benefits. The number of the elderly beneficiaries will be raised to 3.5 million in the next budget. But then more than 10 million people will qualify for old-age allowance if all the poor people above 60 years of age are brought under the social safety net scheme. The 2017-18 budget will also see a rise in various allowances for other segments of the ultra-poor.  

There are, however, challenges before reaching out to the ultra-poor. Around 85 per cent employment happens to be in the informal sectors where there is no provision for pension and job security. The government provides some funds for poor people through various allowance mechanisms. But these are inadequate in terms of both the number of recipients and the amount of money. Viewed against this backdrop, the decision to spread the protection scheme further and increase the allowance is indeed welcome. It's true that all the social protection programmes are being executed predominantly in rural areas. The problem of urban poor gets little attention. They suffer from high rents, sudden hike in prices of necessary goods, lack of urban amenities, insecurity and so on. Introduction of a ration system for these poor people can be a way out. Twenty-three ministries operate 145 social protection programmes in the country. If overlapping, corruption, lack of coordination can be addressed, these programmes are expected to deliver the goods. 

Various surveys say social safety-net benefits do not reach 25 per cent to 50 per cent of the real recipients because of corruption, wrong targeting and leakage. As there is virtually no complaint system, there is no mechanism to get real feedback from the grassroots. At the same time, the authorities have to ensure that the allocated fund reach the beneficiaries in a transparent and regular manner.  Allocation for social safety nets could also be increased by reducing corruption and violence against women. Corruption eats up 2.0 per cent of GDP and violence against women also costs a similar percentage. The government should also not increase the allocation for unproductive sectors. There are two sides of the social protection programmes. One is to support people who need it for whole life such as elderly persons. Another is time bound. These people need support for a particular time to graduate from extreme poverty. The government should prepare an effective grievance mechanism to address various weaknesses of the social protection programmes.

Local government bodies need to be involved more in the social protection programmes. In Kerala, village 'panchayets' carry out these programmes. It ensures proper delivery and monitoring of social protection funds. In Bangladesh, there is an information centre in each union parishad. They may be assigned to collect and update social protection programme-related information on a regular basis. It will help create an authentic national database.

 
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