Bangladesh has made commendable progress in combating poverty and hunger. Available data reveals that the proportion of population below poverty line dropped from over 58 percent in 1990 (the MDG base year) to 31.50 percent in 2010. Bangladesh is one of the 38 countries meeting internationally-established targets in the fight against hunger.
Moreover, Bangladesh has also made significant strides in achieving other MDG targets. While the country is mostly on track in achieving major MDG targets, commendable progresses made in human development, particularly in health and education sectors. Gains made by Bangladesh are really enviable while comparing with other countries in the region.
Apart from sustained growth, expansion of social safety net and pro-poor development policies have contributed in the achievement. The government has constantly increased allocation for Social Safety Net Programme (SSNPs) over the years. In the last budget also, the government increased the allocation for social safety net programmes (SSNPs) by nearly Tk 2,300 crore.
“It shall be a fundamental responsibility of the State to attain, through planned economic growth, a constant increase of productive forces and a steady improvement in the material and cultural standard of living of the people, with a view to securing to its citizens – the right to social security, that is to say, to public assistance in cases of undeserved want arising from unemployment, illness or disablement, or suffered by widows or orphans or in old age, or in other such cases”- said in Article 15 (d) of the constitution. Concept of the right to social security thus emerged from the constitution and commitment from consecutive governments is evident from allocation in SSNPs.
However, number of total recipients of SSNPs were lower than the previous year. Not only the total number of beneficiaries, allocations for the SSNPs in terms of total budget outlay and GDP have also got reduced compared to the revised budget of the outgoing year. While a total of 5 new programmes added under SSNP, another 5 programmes were slashed out.
Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) observed that there is higher than allocation for SSNPs in FY 2013 (in nominal terms), but lower in terms of percentage share of budget and GDP. “An Analysis of the National Budget for FY 2014” conducted by CPD also reveals that additional Tk. 4,800 crores are needed for SSNPs to achieve 3% share of GDP by 2015. A new budget is to be announced within a few months and additional allocation should be made in upcoming budget to achieve the right share of GDP.
Apart from increased allocation for SSNPs, the government has committed to distribute 5,000 acres of Khas land among 21,000 landless families in the current fiscal year. Access to land helps alleviate property and maximizes the chance of preventing transfer of inter-generational poverty. Therefore, target should be reviewed and increased access of extreme poor household would accelerate poverty reduction.
In order to bring positive changes in the lives of extreme poor, greater allocation in SSNPs and increased access to Khas lands are very crucial.
Oli Md. Abdullah Chowdhury is a human rights worker.
1. Hunger halved well before MDG time/ The Daily Star (June 14, 2013)
2. An Analysis of the National Budget for FY 2014/ CPD
3. Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh