POOR WOMEN TO GET CASH HANDOUTS
Rejaul Karim Byron
The government is set to take up a cash handout programme for poor women, to be financed by the World Bank, to ensure proper nutrition for their children and better health for them.
The programme will be run in the seven most poverty-prone districts; pregnant women and women with children below the age of five will receive Tk 200 to Tk 1,000 every quarter.
The WB will extend $300 million for the project, $267 million of which will be handed out as cash to the beneficiaries. Pregnant women are entitled to Tk 200, which would be given when they go for check-ups to health centres every four months.
Mothers with children aged 0-24 months will get Tk 500 when they take their child for monthly height and weight check-ups, while those with children aged 25-60 months are allowed Tk 1,000 on their quarterly visits to the health centres.
All beneficiary women would have to attend child nutrition and development education sessions every month and will be given Tk 500 per visit.
To remain consistent with the government’s family planning policy, each beneficiary mother will be entitled to benefits for only the first and second born child, the WB project document said.
This implies the average size of the monthly benefit would be between Tk 1,200 to Tk 1,800, which is around 15-23 percent of the estimated average monthly per capita expenditure of the target population who are expected to consume at around the lower national poverty line, it added.
The seven districts where the project will be implemented are: Jamalpur, Mymensingh, Sherpur, Gaibandha, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat and Nilphamari.
Around six lakh women from 60 lakh poor population in the seven districts will benefit from the project, which is expected to roll out next fiscal year.
The project is part of the $1.1 billion proposal that is likely to be placed before the WB board on December 16 with the overriding aim to alleviate poverty and boost the government’s income potential.
In 2010, the average poverty rate in the seven districts stood at 31 percent, with the minimum being 41 percent and the maximum 69 percent, according to the last household expenditure survey conducted in the region.
The beneficiaries for the project will be selected using the poverty database that WB is assisting the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics to prepare, to ensure that the huge sums that government spends in the name of social safety net programmes reach their targeted demographic and are not concentrated to a few.
At present, 22 ministries implement 100 programmes, with annual allocation ranging from Tk 10 crore to Tk 5,500 crore.
The ten largest programmes receive 70 percent of the total safety net budget, while the remaining allocation is distributed among 18 medium-sized programmes (23 percent) and 67 very small ones (7 percent).
Between fiscal 1995-96 and 2007-08, the government on average spent 12 percent of the total public expenditure on the social safety schemes. Since fiscal 2008-09, it spent 14 percent of the budget. But the WB report said the country’s social safety net expenditure is still much lower than the global median of 18-27 percent.
Effective targeting and efficient implementation though could make a larger dent on poverty even on the existing budget, it added.
DECEMBER 03, 2014