The government has allocated Tk 95,574 crore for programmes under the social safety net in the proposed national budget for the 2020-21 fiscal, with a proposal to expand the coverage of some programmes to alleviate the plight of the poor amid the situation arising out of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“The government has allocated Tk 95,574 crore in the social security sector, which is 16.83 percent of total budget and 3.01 percent of GDP in FY2020-21. In the revised budget of FY2019-20, the allocation was Tk 81,865 crore,” Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said while placing the proposed National Budget for 2020-21 FY in Parliament on Thursday afternoon.
In his budget speech, the Finance Minister said since the government enforced general holidays, lockdowns, closure of factories and businesses to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections, incomes for the common people have reduced, which now threatens the country’s achievements in poverty alleviation and social security.
In order to overcome the situation, the government has taken an initiative to make direct cash transfers to 5 million people in the current fiscal year to alleviate the sufferings of the poor working people, he said.
Mustafa Kamal in his speech proposed to increase the coverage of some allowance programmes including old age allowance, the allowance for widows and women deserted by their husbands, and the allowance for insolvent persons with disabilities.
“In the next fiscal year, I propose to increase the coverage of the social security programmes in three areas,” he said
He said all poor senior citizens in 100 upazilas most prone to poverty due to the coronavirus outbreak will be brought under the old age allowance as per the existing policy. This will add 5 lakh new beneficiaries, and an additional allocation of Tk. 300 crore will be provided to this programme, he added.
The Finance Minister said all widows and women deserted by their husbands in 100 upazilas most prone to poverty due to the coronavirus outbreak will be brought under the coverage of the allowance programme for widows and women deserted by their husbands as per the existing policy. This will add 3 lakh 50 thousand new beneficiaries, and an additional allocation of Tk 210 crore will be provided to this programme.
Talking about the third area, he said the number of the allowance for insolvent persons with disabilities will be increased to 18 lakh following the latest disability identification survey. This will add 2 lakh 55 thousand new beneficiaries, and an additional allocation of Tk. 229.50 crore will be required for this purpose.
In addition, the Maternity Allowance for Poor Mothers, the Working Lactating Mothers’ Assistance Programme, the VGD activities, the Freedom Fighters Honorarium, the Employment Opportunity for the Extreme Poor, the Special Allowance for Improving the Living Standards of Gypsies and Disadvantaged Communities, the Education Stipend and Training for Gypsies and Disadvantaged Communities, the Assistance for Cancer, Kidney and Liver Cirrhosis Patients, the Living Standard Improvement Program for Tea Garden Workers and other programmes will continue, said Mustafa Kamal.
Noting that Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahaman started the ‘Rural Social Services Programme’ in 1974 in 19 thanas as part of the strategy to eradicate rural poverty, he said due to the success of this programme, it is now being implemented in all the unions across the country.
“We hope that, with this incentive, we will be able to revitalise the rural economy by creating vitality and enthusiasm. I propose to allocate Tk. 100 crore in FY 2020-21 for the ‘Rural Social Services Programme’ to keep the rural economy moving in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, and create self- employment opportunities for the poor and helpless people in rural areas,” he said.
In the light of the National Social Security Strategy Paper, 2015, various social security programmes will be implemented to alleviate the plight of the poor and helpless people from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, he said.
“We have been increasing the allocation in the social security sector every year to improve the condition of the poor. By now, about one-fourth of the families in the country have been brought under the social security programme,” said the Finance Minister.