Social Safety Net Programs (SSNP) are oneof the key initiatives to reduce poverty in developing countries likeBangladesh as it is one of the poorest countries and the eighth largest countrywith 24.
3% of the population living in poverty defined as a daily intake below2122 k.cal. (World Bank, 2016). According to the World Bank, the totalpopulation of the country is 162.
95 million (2016). Therefore, 39.59 millionpeople are still living under poverty in Bangladesh.
For this reason, one ofthe major goals under Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was reducingdeveloping countries poverty rate to 15% from 30% by 2015 based on earning lessthan 1 dollar per day (Besley & Burgess, 2003). However, Bangladesh hasbeen observing huge development, last couple of years, in terms of the GDPincreasing and poverty reduction but poverty remains as deep concern for thedeveloping countries like Bangladesh.The government of Bangladesh introducedsocial safety nets programs to improve the life of poor people and reducing therate of poverty (Bangladesh Economic Survey, 2017). As Bangladesh is anagrarian 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 livingbelow the poverty line whereas it was 43.8% in rural areas (BBS, 2010). But in2005, the poverty rate in urban area was 25.1% whereas it was 28.6% in ruralareas (BBS, 2005).
However, in 2010, itwas just 17.6% and 21.1% respectively (Microeconomic Wing 2016).Therefore, rural people are morevulnerable than those in urban areas regarding participating in any socialactivities, which ultimately, leads them towards exclusion from society. As aresult, because of poverty, poor people feel that they are not part of themainstream’s society.
Social Safety Net Programs (SSNPs) are designed forthose poor people who are not getting anybenefit or assistance from government or NGOs as a mechanism for bringing theminto the mainstream society (Akter,2015). Uddin(2013), in his research mentioned that Bangladesh has progressed remarkably inthe last four decades regarding SSNPs. He also identified old ageallowance under SSNPs as one of the importance schemes (2013). Therefore, every year thegovernment of Bangladesh is increasing its budget allocation on Social SafetyNet Programs along with its covering areas. In fiscal year 2008-9, governmentallocated 13845.27 crore taka from the budget for SSNP purposes where as it was45,230 crore taka in the financial year 2016-17 which is 13.28 percent of budget and 2.31% of GDP (Ministryof Finance).
In particularly, in case of Old Age Allowance, the budget was1,890 and the total beneficiaries were 3.15 million (Bangladesh EconomicSurvey, 2017).In Bangladesh, life expectancy is 72 years in 2016 whereas it was 58, 65 and70 years in 1990, 2000 and 2010 respectively (World Bank, 2016).
As lifeexpectancy has been increasing, so the percentage of elderly people over 65 isalso increasing. In 2010, 65 over populations were 4.8% whereas it was 4.3% in2005 (Uddin, 2013). As aresult ageing is a crucial issue for Bangladesh and the rate of poverty amongthe old is very high around 43% (World Bank, 2006). Old age allowance is one ofthe measures for old people to reduce their poverty and government introducedthis program in 1998. Therefore, it is important to know about ageingpopulation, their problems and the government allowance for them.So, it seems, clear from the expendituretrends of the Bangladesh government that SSNP is getting more and moreimportant.
However, there are not many studies regarding the impact of SSNPs,especial ones focusing on reducing rural poverty and the selection procedure ofits beneficiaries. Pradhan (2015) found multiple impacts of SSNPs on itsbeneficiaries’ livelihood but mentioned that amount which beneficiaries receiveis not enough in terms of money. From this argument, it is clear that there isa gap between the impacts and the amount the beneficiaries are receiving.According to a publication of World Bank (2006) there are some drawbacksrelating to the verifying and selection criteria of the beneficiaries of SSNPs.Uddin (2013) has found theinfluences of local politicians and others elected members in case of selectionof beneficiaries, which leads to officials selecting non-eligible recipients.Therefore, officials are selecting non-poor and non-eligible old people asbeneficiary due to political influence.Though there are some studies on theimpact of social safety net programs but there have not been any studies thatincluded Old Age Allowance and their selection procedure.
Therefore, thepresent study attempts to fill the gap regarding the selection procedures ofbeneficiaries and its impact on reducing rural poverty.