• Sunday, Jan 29, 2023
  • Last Update : 10:24 am

Budget widens social safety net to alleviate pandemic woes

  • Published at 11:44 am June 3rd, 2021
Food distribution at Victoria park Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

The finance minister sets aside Tk107,614 crore for FY 2021-22

With a lingering coronavirus pandemic leaving millions without jobs and pushing low-income people and vulnerable groups into further distress, the government has decided to help them with financial support in the upcoming fiscal year by expanding its social safety net program. 

In the budget proposed for FY 2021-22, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has set aside Tk107,614 crore for social protection, which is 17.83% of the budget and 3.11% of GDP. It was Tk95,574 crore in the revised budget for the ongoing fiscal year.

“Due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, people from all walks of life have to follow hygiene rules to save their lives. As a result, many low-income workers and people engaged in informal occupations have become unemployed. To protect the country's poorest segment from unemployment and loss of income caused by the pandemic, our government has taken steps to widen the coverage of the social safety net,” the finance minister said while unveiling the Tk603,681 crore budget.

Kamal said that more people from the country’s poorest segment would be brought under the coverage of the social safety net. 

The coverage of the government’s allowance program would be extended to another 150 upazilas in the hardest-hit poverty-stricken areas. Another 800,000 new beneficiaries would be covered with an additional allocation of Tk481 crore, said the finance minister.

At present, widows and destitute women in the most poverty-stricken 112 upazilas are covered under the government’s social safety scheme. An additional Tk255 crore will be allocated to include another 425,000 beneficiaries in an additional 150 poverty-stricken upazilas. 

The proposed budget also earmarks Tk200 crore to bring another 220,000 beneficiaries under the coverage of the ‘Insolvent Disabled Person Allowance Program’.

Finance Minister Kamal proposed an allocation of Tk92.21 crore for the Sheikh Russell Child Training and Rehabilitation Centers to protect disadvantaged and endangered children.

Referring to the ‘Cash Financial Assistance’ program launched in 2020 to alleviate the plight of low-income people hit hardest by the pandemic, the minister said that as many as 3.5 million families had received Tk880 crore under the scheme.

“We had to opt for lockdown measures once again this year as there was an intensity of infections. Similarly, we provided financial assistance amounting to Tk2,500 in cash per family to 35 lakh affected families before Eid-ul-Fitr this year so that low-income working people would not suffer financially,” he said in his budget address.

The government has created funds in every village to protect marginal farmers and day labourers from exploitation by putting an end to the activities of middlemen and usurers. 

The social safety net program is one of the initiatives the government has been implementing to help the poor, unemployed and those facing difficulties in maintaining their families for various reasons.

In Bangladesh, there are widespread allegations of the misappropriation of allocations under the safety net program, which has deprived many of availing the special incentive.

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