The government should augment cash transfer to the marginalised and affected households as an effective tool for supporting the needy as well as boosting domestic demand and creating opportunities for employment, experts said on Thursday.
At a virtual dialogue, they also said that the budget formulation process should be more participatory and based on discussion with stakeholders.
Centre for Policy Dialogue and Oxfam in Bangladesh in association with Citizen’s Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh organised the dialogue on social protection and employment in the budget for the fiscal year 2021-2022: was the focus adequate.
‘Cash transfer to marginalised and new poor should be seen as an effective tool for supporting the needy and triggering supply-side response in the economy,’ CPD said in a keynote paper presented at the dialogue.
Higher coverage and budgetary allocation are required for the social safety net programmes in the form of cash transfer and the initial budget allocation should not be a constraint to this end, said the paper prepared on a study report and presented by CPD senior research fellow Towfiqul Islam Khan.
Higher consumption expenditure will also help boost domestic demand and create opportunities for employment, Towfiq said, adding that investment in labour-intensive rural road and infrastructure would also be beneficial to stimulate the rural economy.
According to the study, only about a fourth of the poorest group of people in the country had received assistance from the GR (rice) and GR (cash) and Tk 2,500 cash support during the Covid pandemic.
Only 19.6 per cent of the poorest rural population and 43.3 per cent of the poorest urban population got the support, it said.
Among the respondents in the survey, conducted between January and February as part of the study, whose income had reduced because of the Covid outbreak, 77.3 per cent did not receive any of the three social safety net programmes, it found.
Towfiq said that fiscal constraints should not be any reason for inadequate relief during the pandemic.
Higher unemployment, income erosion, switching to new jobs with lower pay and new dimensions of vulnerability such as emergence of new poor during COVID type emergencies should guide both targeting and allocation, he added.
Terming the budget discussion at parliament as a drama, CPD chairman Rehman Sobhan said that parliament members got on average 10 minutes for discussion on budget.
Parliament members mainly discuss the development projects for their constituency and no participatory discussions on budget are held at parliament, he said.
He said that the targeted people were being left out from the social protection programmes while solvent people were being included due to faulty design.
Replying to a question raised by Rehman, parliamentary standing committee on social welfare ministry chairman Rashed Khan Menon said that parliament members on average got 10 minutes for budget discussion.
He said that discussion on budget at parliament was meaningless as 10 minutes were required to discuss a single point.
The budget formulation process has also become dependent on bureaucrats, he observed.
CPD distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya identified three faults in the allocation for social protection programmes.
The allocations are showed higher than actual amount through inclusion of various elements like pension and interest payment, he said.
Allocations are also not made as per vulnerability while these allocations oftentimes do not reach the right person, he said.
Parliamentary standing committee on government assurances chairman, also former deputy speaker of parliament, Ali Ashraf, CPD distinguished fellow Mustafizur Rahman, CPD executive director Fahmida Khatun, Oxfam Bangladesh country director Dipankar Datta, former Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry former president Shams Mahmud, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology professor at department of sociology Laila Ashrafun, Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal member secretary at Barisal district committee Manisha Chakraborty, United Nations Development Programme assistant resident representative Ashekur Rahman, among others, also spoke at the programme.
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