A range of safety net programs – cash/in-kind transfers, public works, incentive schemes – serve as important instruments in many countries. A global report shows that an increasing number of countries implement safety net programs and they contribute to reducing the poverty gap and improving the welfare of the poorest.
The Government of Bangladesh also allocates significant resources to implement a wide spectrum of social programs. In FY 2019, a budget of approximately BDT 642 billion, or equivalent to 2.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), has been allocated for this purpose. Among these, about BDT 372 billion is being used to implement safety net programs as per the globally recognized classification. They are in the form of cash allowances, public works, and education and health incentives for poor and vulnerable households, which aim to contribute to the fight against poverty and improving human capital.
The World Bank has been providing financial and technical support to the largest safety net programs in Bangladesh to improve their poverty impact, particularly by addressing service delivery efficiency and transparency.
The following program briefs provide detailed information on each of these safety net programs, present outcomes and achievements, and discuss opportunities to strengthen, as well as the Bank’s support. They include:
Unconditional Cash Transfers
1. Old Age Allowance: Bangladesh has seen declines in fertility and mortality following vast improvements in human development. This also means that the country has a growing elderly population which is expected to grow further. This program targets the poor and vulnerable elderly (62 years and older for women; 65 years and older for men) and pays BDT 500 ($6) per month to over 4 million beneficiaries across the country.
2. Allowances for the Widow, Destitute and Deserted Women: Women’s empowerment in Bangladesh has shown steady progress over the years, but the poor and marginalized continue to face poverty amidst many social restrictions. Since the 1970s, the government has been implementing important social safety nets focused on vulnerable women. This program pays BDT 500 ($6) per month to over 1.4 million beneficiaries across the country.
3. Allowances for the Financially Insolvent Disabled: Persons-with-disabilities constitute about 7 percent of the population in Bangladesh. Despite various initiatives from public and private entities as well as NGO sectors, coverage of support has been limited. The program started in 2006 with 100,000 beneficiaries and has now expanded to 1 million beneficiaries who receive a monthly BDT 700 ($8.5) allowance.