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21 May, 2019 11:08:45 AM


Safety net programmes for the marginal people

Designing of effective and well-managed safety net programmes are dependent on various issues, which again vary from country to country
Dr. Forqan Uddin Ahmed
Safety net programmes for the marginal people

Bangladesh is a developing country, where poverty and inequality among the households are common. This is not in this country.

Other developing countries also suffer from these types of social and economic problems. Developing countries moved to open market policies, which led to increasing the disparity particularly in the low-income poor households over the last twenty years to improve the situation through minimizing socio-economic disparities and deprivations. The safety net programmes usually aim at preventing the poor or the vulnerable section of population of poor status. The authority of the safety net programmes may be the donors to the government or even the private sector like non-government organizations, agencies. The total gamut of safety net programmes, therefore, may be classified in to the following types (SSN 2009): 1. Food programmes like feeding programmes, vouchers or stamps for food, 2. Public works in lieu of substantial cash support, 3. Exemption of costs for health care, schooling and utilities, 4. Transfer in-kind like school supplies, school uniforms, 5. Cash transfers, 6. Subsidies for price of food, power or any service. The role of safety nets programmes in low income countries has grown a lot during the last few decades. Such programmes include Productive Safety net Programme (PSNP) in Ethiopia, Food Stamp Programme (FSP) in Pakistan, Vulnerable Group Development in Bangladesh, and these experiences provide an example drawing lessons on safety net interventions. The UN can play a major role in building capacity of Governments to design and implement effective social safety nets to alleviate hunger and poverty within a considerable time to protect vulnerable groups through various measures including food or other in-kind distribution, cash transfers, public works and market interventions/general price subsidies.
Designing of effective and well-managed safety net programmes are linked with or dependent on various issues, which again vary from country to country. Some of those issues are narrated here. Targeting of safety net such a process that it is found perfect in all considerations. Its benefits are usually weighed against the costs in terms of administration, incentive, transaction costs and social barrier. The process of targeting greatly among methods and according to the context, programme design and details of implementation. Effective targeting methods for safety net programmes there are self-selection in respect of purchase of commodity and work requirement.

Two identification measures namely poverty analysis and risk and vulnerability analysis together with their appropriate application are very important for identifying population groups. The poverty analyses include understanding the level of poverty, characteristics of the poor, trends and duration of poverty. Risk and vulnerability assessment again includes sub-factors like threat faced by the poor and hungry, and the nature of their vulnerability. These complex analyses therefore will require development of new skills in interpreting poverty and vulnerability data.

The appropriate social safety net programme will vary from place to place and time to time depending on needs, constraints, politics and history of the country. It must achieve the intended objectives in a cost effective manner and address the needs of the current or intended population given the specific political environment. A good safety net programme is comprised of several programmes. The programme has to be appropriate, adequate, equitable, cost effective, incentive compatible and sustainable.

The design of safety net programme is very important. Also the implementation and delivery determine the general effectiveness and efficiency of such a programme. Similarly, the country situation and political environment also matter and programmes that work well in another context need to be adapted to specific local circumstances. Cash transfers are found more efficient than transfer or subsidies for consumption of particular goods, provided deviations can be controlled. If markets are perfect, conditional transfers are less efficient than unconditional transfer. Conditional cash transfer programmes should be directed to correct a market that results in sub-optimal investment in human capital.

Public works are very helpful in post-conflict and disasters situations and effective in consumption smoothing. It can perform both insurance and redistribution functions and complementary to growth infrastructure building with potentials for self and regional targeting. Payment is a part of the overall implementation and delivery stages of the project cycle of a safety net programme and needs to be reliable, accountable, reduced cost to beneficiaries, efficient, transparent and secured.

Performance monitoring of safety net programmes should focus on inputs (costs and staff time), outputs (goods and services), outcomes including quality (immediate and end) and efficiency (amount of input per unit) and amount of input per unit of outcome. Performance indicators must be related to the programme goal, reliably measurable, timely, clear and fully defined, cost effective and cover inputs, outputs, outcomes and efficiency. Performance indicators for possible negative and unintended effects safety net programmes are also useful.

Impact evaluation of safety net programmes should look at efficacy, adjust programme structure and communicate to governments, donors and civil society. A good evaluation design requires estimating a counter factual to know the effect of an intervention on an outcome: What would have happened to beneficiaries if it had not received the programme and reasons why beneficiaries got a programme and others did not. Adequate programme accountability and control depend on interaction of a variety of mechanisms. The uncertainty and imperfect understanding of outcomes of disasters imply risk reduction. The choice of safety net intervention in post-disaster situation depends on the type of disaster and local circumstances. There is no clear boundary in practice between relief and recovery and initial relief decision can establish institutional arrangements and determine choice of instruments that continue during recovery and reconstruction.

Safety nets in low-income countries can work when it is embedded in the broader growth and poverty reduction strategies, programme type (s) matched to the objectives of the safety nets and implementation thought from the perspective of both the provider and the beneficiary. Transfers of less than five percent of people’s income have been found to have limited effect on the welfare of the beneficiaries.

Bangladesh is a developing and poverty-prone country. At the outset of the liberation of the country in 1971, more than 60 percent of the households in the country were under the poverty line. Food for workers was such a government-sponsored programmes inherited from the pre-liberation period (BARD 2010). During the mid-1970s, food scarcity became a serious problem in the country.

Safety nets are by no means the only component of growth and poverty reduction strategies for low-income countries. There are many complementary investments that are important, e.g. infrastructure, agriculture and rural development, education and health. Safety nets can contribute to growth and poverty reduction in low-income countries through their impact on income/direct resource transfer, increasing the stock of assets, preventing asset depletion and increasing returns to assets. Resource constraints including financial, human and administrative make implementing safety nets in low-income countries challenging.

The writer is a contributor to The Independent



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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