May 23, 2013 | 04:47 PM (BD Time)
23 May, 2013 Thursday
New dimensions of social safety programmes
Bijan Lal Dev :
Social Safety Nets (SSN) are the measures usually taken universally by the governments seeking to prevent the poor or those vulnerable to shocks and poverty from falling below a certain poverty level. Obviously, females are the most beneficiaries of such measures as patriarchal society always try to suppress and deprive them. As poverty has no boundary, the SSNPs have been implementing across the world since the World War II was over irrespective of rich, poor and middle-income countries as non-contributory transfer programs. It existed also in the nineteenth century. At that time, there were no government efforts for such programms. However, the families or local communities and charities, often religiously based organization, formed the backbone of SSNP especially in Europe and America. Most of the governments then made the needy people realize that poverty was their fate. They had to live with poverty nevertheless.
The great depression in the 1930s forced the then US President Franklin D. Roosevelt to start federal welfare program in 1935 to dependant children. The program was extended in the 1960s when Medicare, Medicate, public housing and other programs were established. Interestingly, the people in poverty have been hovering at 12 per cent of all people in the US for the last 50 years. In Europe, most of the countries started SSNPs after the World War II as a safeguard to war-victims. It has been diversified in both horizontally and vertically over the years. Japan, Australia and other strong economies followed suit at that time as then the economies were booming. China started it 30 years before they had started there economic reforms. India, imbibed the idea Jawaharlal Nehru's regime, started its targeted programs for poverty alleviation in the late 1960s. After the Independence of Bangladesh, the government of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman implemented programs like food rations, open market sales, and relief work following disaster and other calamities as SSNPs.
Robert McNamara, former President of the World Bank, took up the idea of the sub-continent and introduced global anti-poverty schemes in the agenda of the Bank in the 1970s. Since there it has been replicating the schemes across the countries from in central and South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania as a useful tool to alleviate poverty. Thus, SSNPs have two basic objectives: protecting the vulnerable from being slided into abject poverty, and reducing poverty. Introduction of the Millennium Development Goals by the UN in 2000 geared up the importance of SSNPs. Since then, the WB and other multilateral and bilateral donors have come up with more funds diverted from traditional development projects to the SSNPs in the poor and weaker developing countries fostering new dimension in SSNPs.
SSNPs of the present-day world have been designed with various objectives. Depending on these objectives they could be classified into income transfers through cash, food related transfer programs, price subsidies, human capital related SSNPs, public works programs and micro-credit and informal insurance programs. SSNPs have also proven to be an effective method of building human capital through interventions in the health and education sectors providing school-based or health-based income transfers.
In Bangladesh, the SSNPs are grouped in two broad categories: social protection and social empowerment. A total of 82 programs have been implemented in 2010-11 financial year spending Tk. 208.94 billion resulting multi-faceted benefits to 27.23 million people across the country on monthly basis. Out of 82 programs, 21 are identified as social protection costing Tk. 102.90 billion. Major programs under this category are allowances for senior citizens, widow, deserted and destitute women, financially insolvent disabled and poor lactating mothers, honorium for insolvent freedom fighters, pension for retired government employees and their families, open market sales, vulnerable group development, vulnerable group feeding, food as test relief and gratuitous relief and food for work. Some 22.4 million people are benefited from these programs on monthly basis. Rest 61 programs were in the social empowerment category and spent Tk. 106.04 billion. In this category, major programs are stipend for students at various levels, national nutrition, housing and climate victims' rehabilitation, one household one farm, community healthcare, rural employment, quality seed production, agriculture rehabilitation, micro-credit, small farmers' assistance, climate change fund and national service. Some 5.03 million people have so far got benefit from these programs on monthly basis.
In the 2011-12 financial year, the government has taken 84 programs spending Tk. 225.56 billion with an increase of 8 percent from the previous year. It targets to provide support to 27.57 million people on monthly basis. Actually, it would cover the whole section of the society to come out from poverty and backwardness. In the Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2010 revealed that Bangladesh has marked a significant progress in reducing poverty to 31.5 percent of the total population in 2010 from 40 percent in 2005, thanks to SSNPs. The SSNPs are also supportive to achieving the MDGs as most of them are targeted to poverty elimination, women empowerment, child and mother care, healthcare and climate victims.
Targeting is an issue that has received wide attention in designing SSNPs for reducing leakage as well as increasing the effectiveness of SSNPs in reaching the intended beneficiaries. However, targeting comes with an associated set of costs while it can increase the benefit of the programs and reduce the inefficiencies associated with the leakage of the benefits to the non-intended population and the associated corruption in implementing SSNPs. Nevertheless, ta
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