A major portion of the funds for the social safety net is going into the hands of wealthy people for errors in identifying the beneficiaries. As a result, poor people and targeted groups are being deprived.
A research by South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM), detected this as the biggest barrier to the implementation of social safety net programmes. Almost all government reports on the review of safety net programmes had also pointed out the problem.
The question is why this happens.
Local administrative officials and government representatives are given the job of making the lists of beneficiaries. But no mechanism is there to ensure their accountability. There is no way too to find mistakes and make corrections.
Moreover, punishment is not given for committing a mistake or including one's name on the list through illegal means. On rare occasions, people are brought to justice for large-scale irregularities.
The faulty system is the reason why a large section of the poor remains out of the purview of the social safety net or relief distribution programmes.
In relief distribution, local government representatives, non-government organisations and civil society should be engaged alongside the administration.
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics took up a project a decade ago to make a correct list of the poor but could not do it. Because of the failure, whenever the government tries to reach underprivileged people in a disaster or crisis, it hits a snag.
Every time a crisis appears, the government scrambles to make a list from the scratch. It is not fathomable as to why BBS, ministries and departments have been unable to coordinate with each other and make a list.
The pandemic has pushed many people into poverty but there is no list of them. It is challenging to support them through the existing mechanism.
What I recommend is coordination between ministries and divisions that have social safety net programmes. All safety net programmes must be brought under one platform.
For that, accurate data, accountability and transparency are required. The use of information technology is needed as well.
Above all, actions should be taken against those involved in corruption. Otherwise, targeted groups will not be benefited.
Dr Selim Rayhan spoke to Jahidul Islam over the phone.