Social Safety Net Programs (SSNP) are one
of the key initiatives to reduce poverty in developing countries like
Bangladesh as it is one of the poorest countries and the eighth largest country
with 24.3% of the population living in poverty defined as a daily intake below
2122 k.cal. (World Bank, 2016). According to the World Bank, the total
population of the country is 162.95 million (2016). Therefore, 39.59 million
people are still living under poverty in Bangladesh. For this reason, one of
the major goals under Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was reducing
developing countries poverty rate to 15% from 30% by 2015 based on earning less
than 1 dollar per day (Besley & Burgess, 2003). However, Bangladesh has
been observing huge development, last couple of years, in terms of the GDP
increasing and poverty reduction but poverty remains as deep concern for the
developing countries like Bangladesh.
The government of Bangladesh introduced
social safety nets programs to improve the life of poor people and reducing the
rate of poverty (Bangladesh Economic Survey, 2017). As Bangladesh is an
agrarian country, most of the poor and marginal people live in rural areas.
Therefore, poverty rates in rural areas are higher than those in urban areas.
According to the report of the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES)
2005 and 2010, during 1991-92, 41.1% people, at the national level were living
below the poverty line whereas it was 43.8% in rural areas (BBS, 2010). But in
2005, the poverty rate in urban area was 25.1% whereas it was 28.6% in rural
areas (BBS, 2005). However, in 2010, it
was just 17.6% and 21.1% respectively (Microeconomic Wing 2016).
Therefore, rural people are more
vulnerable than those in urban areas regarding participating in any social
activities, which ultimately, leads them towards exclusion from society. As a
result, because of poverty, poor people feel that they are not part of the
mainstream’s society. Social Safety Net Programs (SSNPs) are designed for
those poor people who are not getting any
benefit or assistance from government or NGOs as a mechanism for bringing them
into the mainstream society (Akter,
(2013), in his research mentioned that Bangladesh has progressed remarkably in
the last four decades regarding SSNPs. He also identified old age
allowance under SSNPs as one of the importance schemes (2013). Therefore, every year the
government of Bangladesh is increasing its budget allocation on Social Safety
Net Programs along with its covering areas. In fiscal year 2008-9, government
allocated 13845.27 crore taka from the budget for SSNP purposes where as it was
45,230 crore taka in the financial year 2016-17 which is 13.28 percent of budget and 2.31% of GDP (Ministry
of Finance). In particularly, in case of Old Age Allowance, the budget was
1,890 and the total beneficiaries were 3.15 million (Bangladesh Economic
In Bangladesh, life expectancy is 72 years in 2016 whereas it was 58, 65 and
70 years in 1990, 2000 and 2010 respectively (World Bank, 2016). As life
expectancy has been increasing, so the percentage of elderly people over 65 is
also increasing. In 2010, 65 over populations were 4.8% whereas it was 4.3% in
2005 (Uddin, 2013). As a
result ageing is a crucial issue for Bangladesh and the rate of poverty among
the old is very high around 43% (World Bank, 2006). Old age allowance is one of
the measures for old people to reduce their poverty and government introduced
this program in 1998. Therefore, it is important to know about ageing
population, their problems and the government allowance for them.
So, it seems, clear from the expenditure
trends of the Bangladesh government that SSNP is getting more and more
important. However, there are not many studies regarding the impact of SSNPs,
especial ones focusing on reducing rural poverty and the selection procedure of
its beneficiaries. Pradhan (2015) found multiple impacts of SSNPs on its
beneficiaries’ livelihood but mentioned that amount which beneficiaries receive
is not enough in terms of money. From this argument, it is clear that there is
a gap between the impacts and the amount the beneficiaries are receiving.
According to a publication of World Bank (2006) there are some drawbacks
relating to the verifying and selection criteria of the beneficiaries of SSNPs.
Uddin (2013) has found the
influences of local politicians and others elected members in case of selection
of beneficiaries, which leads to officials selecting non-eligible recipients.
Therefore, officials are selecting non-poor and non-eligible old people as
beneficiary due to political influence.
Though there are some studies on the
impact of social safety net programs but there have not been any studies that
included Old Age Allowance and their selection procedure. Therefore, the
present study attempts to fill the gap regarding the selection procedures of
beneficiaries and its impact on reducing rural poverty.