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Tk 1.26t proposed for social safety net

FE REPORT | June 02, 2023 00:00:00

An allocation of Tk 1.26 trillion (Tk 126,272 crore) has been proposed for the social safety net programmes in the budget for FY 2023-24 placed on Thursday.

The proposed amount is 16.58 per cent of the total budget allocation and 2.52 per cent of GDP.

However, amid a surge in prices of essential commodities, economists think the allocation for the social safety net is very insufficient.

"The allocation for the social security programmes needs to be increased as the proposed increase is too meagre compared to the commodity price situation," noted economist Dr Ahsan H Mansur told the FE.

A rise in the monthly allowance by Tk 50-100 can have a very little impact on easing the expenditure burden on poor families, he said, adding that this can only meet a fraction of their monthly expenditure.

Expressing his overall impression about the proposed budget, the economist said that it will be very difficult to implement the budget.

Commenting on the safety net allocation, economist Dr Mahfuz Kabir said the government has increased total allocation in social security programmes through increasing the number of beneficiaries and amount of allowances in major schemes.

"However, given the high inflationary pressure, the increase in the amount of allowances would benefit them marginally," he said, adding that the amount of allowances could have been increased substantially.

According to Mr Kabir, who is the research director of the Bangladesh Institute of International Strategic Studies (BIISS), the wage rate in EGPP (Employment Generation Programme for the Poorest) has increased substantially, though it is still much lower than the market wage rate.

In the coming fiscal year, some proposals for increasing the amount of allowances and number of beneficiaries under the social safety net programmes have been made.

The number of elderly beneficiaries will increase from 57.01 lakh to 58.01 lakh, and the monthly allowance will be raised from Tk 500 to Tk 600.

The number of widows and destitute women beneficiaries will increase from 24.75 lakh to 25.75 lakh and the monthly allowance will be raised from Tk 500 to Tk 550.

According to the proposed budget, the number of disabled beneficiaries will increase from 23.65 lakh to 29 lakh.

It should be noted that all those covered by the disability database have been brought under this allowance.

The finance minister also proposed enhancing monthly educational stipends for disabled students to Tk 900 for the primary level, Tk 950 for the secondary level, and Tk 950 for the higher secondary level from the previous rates of Tk 750, Tk 800, and Tk 900, respectively.

The number of transgender beneficiaries will increase from 4,815 to 6,880 and the number of special beneficiaries will increase from 2,600 to 5,620.

The number of beneficiaries of Life Improvement Programmes for the underprivileged population will increase from 69,573 to 82,503 and the number of special beneficiaries will increase from 45,250 to 54,300.

Additionally, the number of scholarship recipients will increase from a total of 21,903 to 26,283, the budget proposal said.

The number of beneficiaries under the Mother and Child Assistance Programme will increase from 1,254,000 to 1,304,000.

In the employment programme for the extremely poor, the daily wage rate will be increased from Tk 200 to Tk 400.

In addition to changes in the number of beneficiaries and allowances, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal in his budget speech said, "We have introduced a more targeted, transparent, and accountable approach to the social security programmes by implementing the Government-to-Person (G2P) method."

The government has systematically designed the social security programmes for the upcoming year, considering its fundamental goals, objectives, and the current socio-economic situation, the finance minister added.

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