The new poor have not been taken into consideration in allocations for social protection schemes at all this time. There was room for discussion about their issues in the budget, but that did not happen much.
The pandemic has dealt us big blows - one such led to our economic downturn. There are different levels of economy - macro, micro, major. The Covid-led poverty has not been reflected in the allocation.
The number of beneficiaries of old-age and widow allowances has been increased. However, per capita allocation has not increased. It cannot be said that they get a lot of money. The coverage of the social safety net has not been expanded for the poor.
We needed to address two large groups - the cash deprived and the new poor. The issue of those who are less influential in terms of financial capacity did not get importance in the budget. The government is basically trying to emphasize the macroeconomic issue here.
In the last budget, the government had identified Covid-19 as a short-term problem. There is realisation that it has been identified as a long-term problem in this year's budget. This is a positive aspect.
There is a marginal allocation for the water resources ministry although it is also a matter of social safety.
Some Tk26,690 crore has been allocated for retired government officials, which is one-fourth of the total allocation in the social safety net. There is an allocation of Tk10,000 crore more in various types of debt waiver.
What the poor are getting is not more than 1% of the GDP. The allocation should not have been increased.
Now, in 2021, we have to work on tackling the crisis created by the pandemic, rather than going for the regional competition. The government has identified domestic demand as a list of economic growth. But where will the domestic demand come from?
Without purchasing power, domestic demand will not increase. So there is a big difference between good rhetoric and allocation.
A lack of the database of poor people is a long-term problem persisting in our social safety net. As a result, there are many irregularities that the government is now trying to reduce by taking up some initiatives. For example, if such allocations are disbursed through banks, the problems will be solved to some extent.