European Union (EU) Ambassador to Bangladesh Rensje Teerink has recommended that Bangladesh make long-term investment in skills and human capital development as well as job creation to ensure a balanced economic growth after its graduation from the group of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
Reminding the government of the various social and economic challenges that Bangladesh will face after its graduation from LDC status, she reiterated the EU's commitment to continue supporting Bangladesh in the development of its social safety net programmes in order to deal with the crisis.
The head of the European Union delegation to Bangladesh was addressing a dialogue, titled "Efficiency of Delivering Social Protection Programmes in North-West Region," on Wednesday.
The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and Oxfam in Bangladesh jointly organised the online event, in association with Citizen's Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh.
Rensje Teerink said the graduation from the LDC status will affect the Bangladesh economy as the country will lose the facilities it is currently enjoying under everything but arms (EBA) preferential trade scheme.
Bangladesh is the biggest beneficiary of EBA facilities as the country is receiving the lion's share of all benefits from the duty free and quota free access of its products to the EU market, she said, adding the situation will change after the LDC graduation.
Bangladesh may get prepared to fulfill the requirements for applying for the GSP plus facilities, she suggested.
She identified social protection programmes as a major area to continue support for Bangladesh between the country's graduation from LDC status and availing GSP plus facilities.
Pointing out that social protection, human capital development, education and skills development are the highest priority for the EU in Bangladesh, she said, "These sectors would be the next cycle of funding in the country."
She also said the EU has identified flagship programmes to provide funding in some sectors, such as green economy, green energy and decent work.
She emphasised a more inclusive social protection programme and identified the inclusion of indigenous communities, people with disabilities, people from dalit communities, trans-gender and LGBTs as a major challenge.
The EU delegation head said, "I have heard that more than 65% of the beneficiaries of social security programmes are not really poor. It is a big challenge to focus on how to make sure the list of beneficiaries is correct, the money is being transferred to the actual recipients, and some people are not receiving double."
She outlined in brief the initiatives supported by the EU in Bangladesh to tackle the Covid-19 crisis.
She said the EU is contributing €150 million as budget support for the key areas identified by the national social security strategy.
"We will provide €113 million (equivalent to Tk1,145 crore) as budget support for workers in garment, leather and export-oriented industries, whose livelihood was affected by the Covid-19 outbreak."
The financial agreement is expected to be signed in the next week and vulnerable labourers will receive Tk3,000 per month from October, she concluded.