The government allocates Tk64,656 crore for social safety net
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 have reasonably increased different rates of social protection allowances aiming at eradicating poverty and establishment of social justice. The total allocation for social security was only Tk373.2 crore in FY2005-06,” he said.
In addition, the government will continue the existing social protection programs, including the Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) program.
For the Rohingya influx region-- Teknaf and Ukhia of Cox’s Bazar-- the number of VGD beneficiaries increased by 10,000 in each upazila while the total number of beneficiaries was increased to 10.4 lakh from 10 lakh.
Apart from already providing a monthly Tk10,000 honorarium for the freedom fighters, the finance minister proposed an allocation of Tk400 crore to support insolvent wounded and sick freedom fighters and their spouses, children, or grandchildren.
In addition to that, the government proposed to provide a festival allowance for the listed freedom fighters to honor them.
Though the government has been increasing the coverage of social safety net gradually each year, making such a big jump for a certain community is clearly an attempt to seek support prior to the next election, an economist told the Dhaka Tribune, seeking anonymity.
The finance minister also mentioned that the government has been trying to provide cash benefits to the beneficiaries under the safety net scheme through Electronic Fund Transfer to avoid duplication.
“We have already mentioned our initiatives for providing allowances under the social safety net to nearly five million people through an Electronic Fund Transfer of the G-to-P system. On May 7, 2018, we started piloting this initiative by giving allowances to 8,499 people. Gradually, all beneficiaries will be brought under the coverage of this program,” he added.