Bangladesh expands social protection plan to shake off pandemic effects

Bangladesh has expanded its social safety net programmes by increasing the budgetary allocation by 12.5 percent in the fiscal year 2021-22 as part of the efforts to alleviate the plight of lower-income and vulnerable groups which have been hit hardest by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Published : 3 June 2021, 01:12 PM
Updated : 3 June 2021, 01:12 PM

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal earmarked Tk 1.1 trillion for social protection, which is 17.83 percent of the proposed Tk 6.04 trillion budget and 3.11 percent of the GDP.

It was Tk 955 billion in the current year's revised budget.

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal delivers the budget speech for the 2021-22 fiscal year in parliament on Thursday, Jun 3, 2021. Photo: PMO

"Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, people from all walks of life have to follow the hygiene rules to save their lives. As a result, many low-income workers and people engaged in informal works have become unemployed," said Kamal.

The government is taking various steps to widen the coverage of the social safety net in order to protect the country's poorest segment from unemployment and loss of income due to the pandemic, according to him.

The ‘Cash Financial Assistance’ programme launched in 2020 to provide cash transfers to low-income people will continue while the minister also made numerous proposals to widen the ambit of the social safety net.

These include extending the scope of the government's allowance scheme to cover poor elderly citizens in 150 of the most poverty-stricken Upazilas from the existing 112. An additional Tk 4.81 billion will be allocated to cater to the 800,000 new beneficiaries under the scheme.

Hasna Banu, a resident of Dumuria village, in Shyamnagar Upazila in Satkhira, runs a shop with financial support from a local organisation. Hasna borrowed Tk 40,000 from the NGO to rebuild her life after Cyclone Aila. Photo: Mostafigur Rahman

Similarly, the coverage will also be increased for widows and women deserted in 150 Upazilas to bring in 425,000 new beneficiaries with an additional allocation of Tk 2.55 billion.

The number of beneficiaries of the allowance for insolvent persons with disabilities will also increase by over 200,000, which will be accompanied by a Tk 2 billion increase in the budgetary allocation.