Experts say that the government should focus on the formulation of special programmes that prioritise small ethnic groups for social safety allocations and transparent selection of beneficiaries. The aim of the programmes should be to eliminate poverty in these communities.
Experts also called for a logical rearrangement of the government's social safety net programmes because about 24 percent of social safety allocations for the poor go to pensioner public servants who account for only 0.5 percent of the beneficiaries.
More than 60 percent of the people of these ethnic minority groups are living in poverty even though the national poverty level has come down to below 25 percent, they said.
These comments were made at a seminar jointly organised by Right to Food Bangladesh and World Vision at the Cirdap conference centre in the capital yesterday.
Dr Quazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of Right to Food Bangladesh and the Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation, presided over the seminar.
Dr Asif Shahan, an associate professor of the Department of Development Studies at Dhaka University, presented a research paper titled "Status of Small Ethnic Groups in Social Safety Programmes: Proposal for a New Policy Structure."
In his keynote paper, Dr Asif said politicisation of poverty escalates during selection of beneficiaries for social safety programmes.
Genuinely poor people are often left out of the list of beneficiaries because of pressure from local political leaders, lawmakers and other people's representatives, he said.
Dr Asif said there has been little progress in the government's effort to reduce the number of its social safety programmes. Only 31 programmes have been merged with other similar ones in the last three years.
However, mismanagement in this sector has decreased, thanks to the use of a data bank created through the use of technology, along with money transfer through mobile banking, he added.
The chief guest, Gazi Mohammad Nurul Kabir, director general of the Department of Social Services, said the government spends about Tk75,000 crore per annum in social safety programmes.
He added that the money should be spent more on training beneficiaries in income-generating activities, because the allocation that each beneficiary receives from social safety programmes is not enough to support a family.
Dr Quazi Kholiquzzaman said that short-term projects have little effect in alleviating poverty, because poverty returns to its previous level when the project ends.
He added that it is necessary to start new projects as soon as ongoing projects end in order to retain their benefits.
He advised that new programmes should be started for a sustainable inclusion of small ethnic groups in the social safety net.
Guest of honour Professor MM Akash from Dhaka University, said the poverty level in small ethnic groups is three times higher than the national level.
He focused on started special programmes and increasing development allocations for these people.
Mohammad Khaled Hasan, social protection specialist at the Social Security Policy Support (SSPS) programme of the cabinet division, and Raina Ahmed, deputy secretary of the food ministry, also spoke on the occasion.
Mohsin Ali, general secretary of Right to Food Bangladesh and executive director of Wave Foundation, gave the address of welcome.