NSSS in the Context of the Social Development Framework: The Government’s social protection policy must be seen as a core element of the other policies and programmes that together comprise the broader social development framework (SDF). The main objective of the SDF is to have a comprehensive and consistent set of policies that can help Bangladesh achieve better equity and social justice in the context of its development effort. This focus of the SDF is to be achieved through a range of policies and programmes encompassing the Government’s poverty reduction strategy, the education strategy, the health, nutrition and population strategy, the strategy for sanitation and water supply, the strategy for inclusive finance, the strategy for women and gender empowerment, the strategy for social inclusion of ethnic and religious minorities, the strategy for environmental protection and climate change management, the strategy for disaster management and social protection strategy. These various strategies and programs are mostly complementary in nature and tend to strengthen the impact on poverty reduction, reduce vulnerability of the poor and promote social cohesion.
NSSS Vision: In the long-term the objective is to move towards building a social protection system that is available to all Bangladeshis, providing everyone with a guaranteed minimum income but also a comprehensive safety net for those who suffer shocks and crises that may push them into poverty. Therefore, the long-term vision for social protection is to:
- Build an inclusive SPS for all Bangladeshis that effectively tackles and prevents poverty and rising inequality and contributes to broader human development, employment and economic growth.
The current NSPS is designed with this long-term vision in mind. Therefore, over the next five years the Government will take appropriate steps towards achieving this vision, while being cognizant of the reality that substantial change will take time. The Government will focus on building the foundations of a progressive and inclusive system. Over the next five years, the goal for the NSPS is to:
- Reform the national SPS by ensuring more efficient and effective use of resources, strengthened delivery systems and progress towards a more inclusive form of social protection that effectively tackles lifecycle risks, prioritising the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.
Priority Challenges for the Medium-Term: Against the backdrop of the review of past SPS experience, the priority challenges that will need to be addressed over the next five years are:
- Expanding coverage of core schemes for the most vulnerable members of society, focusing on children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
- Ensuring that the most vulnerable women are provided with income security and greater opportunities to engage in the labour market, in particular as they enter into motherhood.
- Initiating a social insurance system that enables people to invest in their own social security, providing protection against the risks of old age, disability, unemployment and maternity.
- Expanding coverage to the residents of urban areas and to the socially excluded people.
- Ensuring that the social protection system supports an effective disaster response system.
- Strengthening the delivery systems for priority transfers by establishing advanced management information systems and professional staff.
Programme Consolidation along the Life Cycle Risks: The NSPS will strengthen the transformation towards a lifecycle system by consolidating programmes in a small number of priority schemes. The aim is to identify the high priority schemes make the system more inclusive by incorporating a higher proportion of poor and vulnerable people within it. This will be achieved by gradually increasing coverage of priority schemes and ensuring that selection processes priorities the inclusion of poor and vulnerable families.
The five core life cycle programmes suggested by NSPS are:
- Programmes for Children: The strategy advocates two core programmes for children: A child grant of Taka 800 per month for children of poor and vulnerable family up to age 4. The child grant will be limited to a maximum of two children per family to avoid any adverse implications for the population management policy.
- A school stipend of Taka 240 per month for all primary and secondary school going children belonging to the poor and vulnerable households.
- The children will also have the disability benefit, the school meals programme, the orphans programme and the legal provision to ensure that abandoned children get the financial support from the responsible parent.
- Supply side interventions relating to immunization, childcare health and nutrition, water supply and sanitation and nutrition outreach will be strengthened.
Programmes for the Working Age: The strategy consists of:
- Strengthening education and training programmes to motivate the youth to complete education and to enable the working youth and the older workforce to acquire required skills.
- Implementing a strengthened workfare programme for the unemployed poor. The Government will build on the ongoing reforms of the workfare programmes by converting food-based programmes into cash-based and consolidating these fragmented schemes into one workfare programme within the Employment Generation Programme for the Poor. It is expected that the reform of the workfare programmes will be completed by July 2018.
- Introducing legislation for providing unemployment, sickness, maternity and accidental insurance as a part of the NSIS (see below)
- Implementing a programme of financial support to vulnerable women (widows, divorced, destitute, single mother, and unemployed single women) and facilitate their participation in the labour market. In the strategy, women will be entitled to the Citizen’s Pension and the Disability Benefit as relevant. Additionally, in recognition of the special difficulties faced by vulnerable working age women, the strategy advocates a consolidated income transfer under the reformed Vulnerable Women’s Benefit (VWB) that provides Taka 800 per month to this group.
- In addition, the strategy provides for expansion of the Maternal Health Voucher Scheme (MHVS) administered by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and a range of policy measures to facilitate the entry of women in the labour market. These include continuation of training provided under the ongoing Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) scheme, provision of childcare facilities in all government offices and in formal private sector, as well as maternity insurance through the NSIS as noted above.
Comprehensive Pension System for Elderly: This reformed programme has four components:
- The Citizen’s Pension for citizens who are aged 60 years and above and belong to the poor and vulnerable population. The monthly rate will be increased to taka 3000 for the few people who exceed 90 years since this will generate significant incentives to care for elderly people.
- Continue with the Government Service Pension with no change at this time.
- Introduce legislation to establish a National Social Insurance Scheme (NSIS) that makes it obligatory for all private enterprises in the formal sector to offer a contributory pensions programme for all employees. The NSIS will provide pensions as well as address other contingencies (such as disability, sickness, unemployment and maternity).
- Review options to facilitate the development of Private Voluntary Pension (PVP), which are open to all citizens irrespective of occupation or formality of employment.
The Citizen’s Pension and the Government Service Pension will be funded by the Budget. The NSIS and the PVP will be funded through employer and employee contributions.
Programmes for People with Disabilities: The support strategy for the disabled consists of:
- A disability benefit of Taka 800 per month for children suffering from disability.
- A disability benefit of Taka 800 per month for working age population suffering from disability.
Preserving the Value of Transfers: To prevent the value of transfers from falling, all cash transfers provided through the above Life Cycle based core schemes will be indexed to inflation.
Income Eligibility Criteria: The above programmes will be available to all poor and vulnerable population (about 50 percent of the population) if they meet the other requirements of each specific programme. Income eligibility will be determined on the basis of a Proxy Means Test (PMT) that is being developed by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).
Programme Implementation: The core life cycle programmes will be implemented gradually over a three year period starting from July 2015-16. The programmes will be continued thereafter based on periodic reviews and modifications as necessary.
Health Insurance and Human Development Supply Side Interventions: The Government is aware that without health financing reforms and adequacy of supply side interventions in health, education, water supply and sanitation, the cash transfers from the life cycle scheme alone will not achieve the desired results. The Government has already adopted a long-term comprehensive health financing reform strategy, which will be fully implemented. Additionally, efforts to strengthen the provision of health care, nutrition, water supply and sanitation, and education and training will continue.
Special Programmes for the Freedom Fighters: The schemes to support the freedom fighters and their families will continue under the consolidated Freedom Fighters Benefit Programme.
Consolidating Small Schemes: In recent years there has been a rapid expansion in the number of small schemes. Much of this has been led by development partners, usually well intentioned as new approaches have been piloted and specific challenges addressed. However, with the formulation of core programmes of the NSPS, it is important to assess whether these schemes are adding value in terms of innovative ideas with prospects for scaling up. Under the leadership of the General Economics Division (GED) of the Planning Commission, each sponsoring Ministry of these small schemes will be responsible for determining the value of these schemes and, by mid-2015, will present a business case if they believe that the programme should continue. The GED will, on the basis of the business cases, make proposals to Cabinet on which schemes should continue. Decisions will be finalized and implemented from July 2016.
Consolidation of Food Transfer Programmes: The Government will gradually convert all food-based transfer programmes that are a part of the NSPS into cash transfers. All workfarebased food programmes will be converted into one consolidated cash-based workfare programme under EGPP. The transfer of food during disaster will continue as a disaster management response as necessary under the management of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief. The only Food Programme that will continue under the NSPS as a food security programme is the Open Market Sales (OMS) managed by the Ministry of Food. The scope of the OMS will be expanded as necessary to tackle hunger and food affordability issues as appropriate. The OMS will remain self-targeted as presently.
The reform will be done in an orderly manner by the Ministry of Food in consultation with the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief. Food distribution through OMS and as disaster relief will be coordinated with the Government’s Food Stock Policy as appropriate. It is expected that the reform of the food transfer programmes will be completed by July 2018.
Reducing Risks and Vulnerabilities from Climate Change, Environmental Degradation and Disaster Preparedness: The Government’s programmes to address climate change and disaster prevention will be further strengthened as a part of its broader development effort. Agricultural research, embankment and reforest programmes, disaster preparedness etc are already making important inroads in lowering the vulnerability of the population to climate change and natural disasters. Longer-term programmes such as the planned Delta Region Development can be of further benefit in this regard.
Reaching Out the Urban Population: The Government is mindful of the need to bring more of the poor and vulnerable population living in urban areas under the umbrella of social protection. Accordingly, steps will be taken to ensure that the priority social protection schemes for the elderly, children, vulnerable women and people with disabilities are expanded so that urban residents have equal access. The Government also understands that new proposals in NSPS such as the childcare proposals and the NSIS will initially benefit urban residents mostly owing to the location of the formal economic activities. Therefore, special efforts will be made to expand these benefits to the rural population. This is a longer term agenda and the Government will review experiences of countries like Brazil and Mexico to determine how the scope of social insurance schemes can be expanded for the rural population.
Reaching Out the Socially Excluded Population: A range of socially excluded population that faces various social discriminations based on religion, ethnicity, profession or illness. The Government is highly sensitive to ensuring the elimination of all kinds of socio-economic discrimination against these groups through legislative and other affirmative actions. This is a major agenda item for the Government’s broader Social Development Framework. The Government will also ensure that these groups have similar access as the rest of the population to all social protection programmes and to all publicly provided basic services in education, health, nutrition, population planning, water supply and sanitation. The Government believes that these two strands of public policy are the best way to support the development of these groups.
The Government is aware that special efforts will be needed to reach many of the members of this group. This will involve sensitizing staff of social protection agencies as well as relying on local government and NGOs for identifying potential beneficiaries. An effective grievance redressing mechanism will also be helpful to bring members of these excluded populations into the social protection network.