The Constitution of Bangladesh demands of the State the fundamental responsibility to ensure the right to social security for all deserving people (Article 15-D). Such constitutional provision creates a special moral obligation for the Honourable Parliamentarians to strive for strengthening the social security system of the country. Parliamentarians are involved in issues of social protection not only by their roles in passing relevant legislature and budget bills, but also by their oversight functions in delivery of social benefits at the grassroots level.
The Honourable Members of Parliament, having significant roles in shaping the social protection of the country, need to be oriented on the National Social Security Strategy (NSSS) of Bangladesh, which was approved by the Cabinet in 2015. The Cabinet Division, being in charge of rolling out the NSSS, organized orientation workshops on the NSSS for the Parliamentarians in October and December 2016. The Members of Parliament (MPs) while being briefed on salient features of the NSSS also made valuable recommendations on implementation of the strategy. The present report contains the proceedings of the workshops, summarizing important points and recommendations as made by the participants.
The workshops were organized for separate groups of MPs in three days. In a first spell, two workshops took place on 2 and 4 October 2016, with a third workshop held on 6 December 2016. Each workshop was attended by around 50 MPs along with senior officials of the Parliament Secretariat, the Cabinet Division and the GED (Annexure-1). The workshop of each day commenced with a short opening session followed by discussion by the MPs and then a closing session.
The participants agreed with most of the NSSS provisions like programme consolidation along the lifecycle framework and improvement of delivery mechanisms They recommended that the selection process should be improved. They also pointed out that for making the beneficiary list widely acceptable, the draft list should be published in the Upazila headquarters to be accessible to common people. Gender gap in social protection should be analyzed more elaborately in order to address the issues of gender specific needs of social protection. Distribution of cash should be through banking and digitized channel so that any potential risk of leakage can be minimized. The problems of terrorism and drug abuse, river erosion, housing problem, etc. should be tackled with more comprehensive programmes. The NSSS may be updated to accommodate the relevant findings and recommendations of the workshops.
The MPs have a vital role to play in establishing a modern social protection system in the country. Therefore, the NSSS or the relevant Government circulars should clearly define what will be the specific responsibilities of the MPs, especially with regard to the allowances for widows, old age, persons with disabilities, etc.