Experts at a discussion suggested that people who have recently fallen below the poverty line due to the coronavirus should be included in social security programmes.
Speaking at a webinar titled 'Covid-19: Social Security Programmes and Right to Health', they called for increased allocations to the social security sector.
Speakers remarked on the fact that many people are being included in the social security programme, even though they are not poor. A database needs to be quickly developed to ensure that only deserving, eligible individuals are included.
Planning Minister MA Mannan was the chief guest at the webinar jointly organized by Development Journalists Forum of Bangladesh (DJFB) and the non-governmental organisation Action for Social Development (ASD) on Saturday. Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) Senior Research Fellow Nazneen Ahmed presented the keynote at the programme.
According to the keynote, many people have fallen below the poverty line due to the covid-19 pandemic. It is critically important to include them in the social security programme by increasing allocation to the sector.
Nazneen Ahmed said many had lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Export earnings have declined due to the onset of the global market crisis. The rates of income inequality and poverty have also increased in the country during this period.
She said more than Tk 95,000 crore has been allocated to the social security sector in the current financial year, but a large part of the funds will be spent on pensions for government officials.
Claiming that implementation of social security programme lacks good governance, Nazneen said certain people are still reaping the benefits despite not being eligible, whereas many poor people are not being included.
Suggesting that a database be built to establish good governance in the sector, the economist further said that the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) was developing a database of the country's rich and poor. Though the work was started quite a while ago, it is still incomplete.
She urged relevant stakeholders to find out why the work was taking so long.
Planning Minister MA Mannan said, "I also think that allocations in the social security sector need to be increased. That effort is ongoing. The Eighth Five-Year Plan proposes that allocations in this sector be increased."
The minister said the poverty rate has risen due to the ongoing pandemic, in which case, allowances need to be increased. The current allowance is Tk500-700, which, we will try to increase to Tk1,000.
Mannan said the present government is working on various measures to alleviate poverty. Efforts will be made to include in the social security programme those who were widowed during the pandemic.
Mofidul Islam, head of general economics department of Planning Commission, said, "Only one percent of the GDP is allocated to our health sector, which is negligible. There are plans to increase this allocation to two percent."
It was disclosed during the seminar that Tk95,574 crore has been allocated for the social security programme in the budget of the current financial year, which is 16% of the total budget and 3% of the total GDP. However, a large part of this goes towards payment of pensions. The legitimately poor are allocated only 1.24% of the total GDP.