Though Social Safety Net Programmes (SSNPs) are considered as an important tool to reduce poverty in a country like ours, but a debate has been raised recently about the modus operandi of these programmes in Bangladesh. According to the reports published in media, questioned on poverty rate is raised by the Bangladesh Bank Governor about a year ago. As Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) claims the current poverty rate is below 30 per cent, then why the government is paying allowances for 50 percent of the population under social net programmes. The debate has also been swelled up, as the allocation of the money under social cause is being misused or mismanaged due to ploticisation, corruption and exploitation.
The Constitution of Bangladesh in it’s clause 15(d) declares to introduce the Social Security Programme for merginalised group. The government annually spends around 2.5 per cent of GDP on social safety net programmes, though, considering the importance of such programmes, the policymakers have reportedly decided to increase the spending, under a proposed National Social Protection Strategy (NSPS) prepared by General Economics Division (GED) of the planning commission.
The draft NSPS will focus on expanding coverage of core schemes for the most vulnerable members of the society, which includes children, elderly and the disabled, claims GED officials, but a cloud remains in the mixed methods for targeting beneficiaries under safety net programmes. As the beneficiaries vary by different age, group and ability, then it should not be wise to give responsibility to a particular organization or ministries to sort out the beneficiaries.
There are many social net porgrammes namely Vulnerable Group Development (VGD), Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF), Food For Work (FFW), Test Relief (TR), Gratuitous Relief (GR), Old Age Allowances etc. The new policy aims to identify the high priority schemes and make the system more inclusive by incorporating a higher proportion of poor and vulnerable people within it. But the policy suggests transferring all food programmes to convert into cash transfers, which may create a chance for the criminal nexus to misuse the money for their interest.
So, before taking further initiatives, the concerned authority should assess the effectiveness and performance of the existing safety net programmes as some schemes have become the tools for local elites and politicians to exploit the poor. To identify such schemes, steps should be taken immidiately.
Strengthening local government can be an effective way to marginalise the rural poor under social safety net. In the name of social protection none can harm the poor. So strong coordination among the GO, NGO, Local Governments and policy makers should given priority for proper implementation of the safety programmes. The most important is, sincerity of the government in this regard should be a pre-condition.