A fresh finding of a joint survey conducted by the Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) and the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development shows that 25 million people have become ‘new poor’ countrywide due to the coronavirus pandemic. The reality poses the greatest threat to the country's march forward. In such a grave situation, social safety net is the only means to protect them and reduce poverty. Such a programme deserves high priority to ensure the rights and entitlements of the disadvantaged groups. Therefore, a comprehensive social safety net is a crucial need for the hapless people.
However, yesterday’s lead story of this newspaper offered some solace for the poor. Quoting official sources, the report stated that 12 million people of the country might be brought under the government’s wider social safety net in the next fiscal year.The government's attitude towards the poor is worth lauding, but less than 50 per cent ‘new poor’ are likely to be covered under the new proposal. As the perils can only be overcome with well-intentioned steps, it calls for greater coverage under social safety net. Considering the vulnerabilities of the marginalised people, we believe the final social safety net programme would be comprehensive and long-tern, not a one-time gesture.
Moreover, the allocation for the safety net programme should be sufficient enough to meet the demands of the increased number of poor people. But, how the money allocated will be distributed determines the success of the programme. The pandemic has thus brought to the fore the need to ensure transparency in the delivery of services. Experience has proved that because of pervasive corruption, selection of ineligible beneficiaries and misuse of funds, a significant part of the state support does not even reach its intended recipients. The policy implications of the lessons learned indicate the need to sustain high-level political commitment, strengthen programme management, better targeting of beneficiaries, improve financial management and strengthen monitoring and supervision. Undertaking lofty programmes would not suffice; its proper implementation matters the most. The government must surmount the challenges that lie ahead through vigilance and strict measures.