Improved targeting of the social protection programmes can substantially reduce poverty in Bangladesh, says the World Bank (WB). In a new report launched on Thursday, the WB said that social protection programmes remain central to Bangladesh’s development policy for benefitting the poorer households. It said that reallocating the existing transfers to the poorest could reduce poverty in Bangladesh from 36 percent to 12 percent.
Highlighting the poverty distribution between rural and urban areas, the report observes that almost one in five persons in the urban areas are poor while almost half of them are at the risk of falling into poverty. About 11 percent of the urban people are covered by social protection whereas 36 percent people in the rural areas are covered by these programs. Close to 26 percent of the rural people live in poverty.
The report says that using a social registry, such as the National Household Database can improve targeting of both programs and households at a reduced cost.
World Bank operations manager for Bangladesh and Bhutan Dandan Chen said that Bangladesh has expanded its social protection programmes coverage now to 10 percent of the population. He said that the COVID 19 pandemic has accentuated the need for a more robust, efficient and adaptive social protection system.
Bangladesh spent about 2.6 percent of GDP on social protection which is in line with countries with similar income levels. However, the report notes, high risk groups like young children, persons with disabilities, pregnant women and elderly need to be targeted under these programmes.
The report recommends scaling up the Government to Person (G2P) and mobile financial services to boost the quality and efficiency of service delivery. Currently transfer of funds from treasury to the beneficiary takes two months. The G2P scheme can cut the processing time to 10 days, says the WB report.