The Government of Bangladesh is strongly committed to reducing poverty, improving human development and reducing inequality. This commitment is reflected in Vision 2021, the Perspective Plan 2010-2021 and in the Sixth Five Year Plan FY11-FY15. The Government seeks to build on past progress with poverty reduction and further deepen this progress by addressing the root causes of poverty and by lowering the impact of risks faced by the poor and vulnerable population. The Government appreciates that notwithstanding the past impressive progress with poverty reduction, there is a substantial population that remains exposed to poverty owing to various vulnerabilities. This includes the population that remains under the poverty line and those that are just above the poverty line but could easily fall below the poverty line because of these vulnerabilities. Evidence shows that the poor and vulnerable group cannot cope with all the downside risks and shocks with their own resources.
The present safety net programmes reflect the Government’s response to support the poor and the vulnerable population manage those risks. Household Income and Expenditure Surveys (HIES) show that the coverage of these programmes for the poor and vulnerable households has increased and they have helped lower poverty. But data also suggest that a large proportion of the poor and vulnerable households do not have any access to these programmes. The average benefit of safety net programmes is low and in many cases falling in real terms. There is considerable leakage of allocated funds and a significant percentage of household beneficiaries are non-poor. Consequently, the impact on poverty reduction from the amount of money spent in these programmes is much less than is possible with a better Social Security system.
In recognition of these concerns, the Government of Bangladesh has embarked upon the formulation of a comprehensive National Social Security Strategy (NSSS). The Cabinet meeting held on 10th September 2012 entrusted the General Economics Division (GED) of the Planning Commission to prepare the National Social Security Strategy (NSSS) under the guidance of a Central Monitoring Committee (CMC) for the Social Safety Net Programmes Chaired by the Cabinet Secretary. The CMC provided the terms of reference and overall guidance to the formulation of the NSSS. A Framework Paper was prepared by GED, endorsed by the 11-member Sub-committee of CMC led by Cabinet Division and approved by the Ministry of Planning. A strong process of regional and national consultation helped shape the contents and recommendations of the NSSS. In this regard, the NSSS is fully home-grown and based on the political, social and economic realities of Bangladesh.
The NSSS builds on the past rich experience of Bangladesh and seeks to streamline and strengthen the existing safety net programmes with a view to achieving better results from money spent. It also broadens the scope of Social Security from the narrow safety net concept to include employment policies and social insurance to address the emerging needs of a middle income Bangladesh in 2021 and ahead. By broadening the scope and coverage and by improving programme design the NSSS will help lower income inequality and contribute to higher growth by strengthening human development. While the NSSS reflects the realities of Bangladesh, to the extent relevant it also draws on good practice international experience. To facilitate the preparation of the NSSS ten background papers, prepared by a team of international and local experts, were commissioned on the various issues relating to the NSSS.