Social Safety Net
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.
This is primarily due to resource constraint that impede 100 percent coverage of about 40 percent of the total population who are categorised as poor according to cost of basic needs (CBN) approach.
There are complaints of leakage for the programmes. While this cannot be totally controverted, the way out appears to be to strengthen monitoring, freeing the programmes from extraneous influences and reducing corruption in the selection of beneficiaries and in disbursement of the assistance, cash or kind. [AMM Shawkat Ali]
Bibliography Planning Commission, Government of Bangladesh, Moving Ahead: National Strategy for Accelerated Poverty Reduction (FY 2009-11), pp 94-96; Government documents of the Ministry of Food and Disaster Management, Government of Bangladesh