Social Safety Nets in Bangladesh: Ground Realities and Policy Challenges

Recent years have seen a perceptible increase in interest in social safety nets with in developing countries. Although many critics have questioned social safety-nets as something politically expedient, stigmatizing and highly inadequate to prime concerns of the poor, the necessity of such nets was never really discarded in practice. However, a new urgency is now visible in the discourse as safety nets and the broader issue of social protection is increasingly being seen as a mainstream development concern. Originally, a narrow concept of public social safety nets operated amounting to non contributing state transfers in cash or kind. These were sometimes universal, but more often targeted, to help the poor or those suffering from poverty to overcome their transient problems. More recent conceptualization, particularly for developing countries, argues for a broader scope. There is a growing realization that issues relating to the safety-nets and the broader issue of social protection needs to be discussed with in the context of the relationship between risk management and the prospect of growth and the extent to which the growth process is pro-poor. In this sense, social protection impacts on poverty reduction through a series of direct and indirect channels.