12pc Social Safety Net benefit lost on bribe, flaws

An estimated 11-12 percent fund of the Social Safety Net (SSN) programme is drained out due to various flaws, said a study report of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

One percent of the benefit is leaked out as bribe, seven percent lost for mal-targeting and three to four percent for receiving less than prescribed amounts.

‘Social connection’ with local representatives and bribe appeared to be the most important criterions to get benefit of the SSN, making frustrated its main objective to reduce poverty through direct transfer of resources to the poor.

Social connection means the target household having some relative of friend to approach UP chairman or member. About one-third of the current beneficiaries reported to have such social connection.

The study conducted by an expert team under National Food Policy Capacity Strengthening Programme of FAO said this noting that very poor people without social connection or affinity are unlikely to have access to such benefits.

Some 14.5 percent beneficiaries have used the channel of giving bribe to make their access to the SSN programmes and two-thirds of the beneficiaries managed their access through the above channels. Only one-third was selected purely on the basis of poverty, the study found.

Another important channel to get the SSN benefits is belonging to the vote bank of an influential member or chairman to qualify for prioritization. About one-fifth of the current beneficiaries reportedly received benefit through this channel.

“The beneficiaries are of course poor but they are poor with good linkage”, Dr M Maniruzzaman of the Center for Agri-research and Sustainable Environment & Entrepreneurship Development, and head of the study team told BSS yesterday.

Although the issue of safety net is widely researched, it still needs fresh attention, particularly with respect to efficiency in implementation, Maniruzzaman said.

The study however reported that despite many constraints and quite high degree of nepotism, the local governments are managing the SSN reasonably well with limited overlapping, low degree of leakage and misuse of the fund.

The SSN has been defined as actions, policies and programmes that attempted to reduce poverty through direct transfer of resources to the poor.

It intends to or at least helps ensure a minimum level of income for the extreme poor, who are unlikely to benefit much from the economic growth.

During the last two decades, the Government of Bangladesh introduced as many as 27 SSN programmes and the most important ones are VGD, VGF, FFW/CFW, Old Age Allowance, Widow or Distressed Women Allowance, Disability Allowance and Distressed Freedom Fighters’ Allowance.

Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper targeted reaching about four million beneficiaries in 2008-09 year through four major long-term SSN programmes like VGD, Old age Allowance, Widow Allowance and Disability Allowance, and some 13 million through short-term programmes like VGF, FFW, CFW, TR, GR and 100 days employment support.

The study report recommended further emphasis be given on geographical targeting and higher prioritization on the most deprived and vulnerable people like extreme poor, disabled or old aged men and women not having support from the family, mothers of orphaned and abandoned children.

Moniruzzaman also emphasized the need for capacity building of the existing institutions saying, ways and means should be identified to improve local governance along with enhancing the involvement of local communities in the SSN management.

Source: The Daily Star, 19 February 2009


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