The Government of Bangladesh, with assistance from UNDP’s Social Security Policy Support, held a two-day Social Security Conference in Dhaka City this week. In attendance were social protection implementing ministries, development partners, academics, NGOs and private sector organisations.
The conference presented research on issues of social protection and reflected on the progress made towards implementing the National Social Security Strategy (NSSS).
Stephen Kidd from Development Pathways delivered two presentations. The first presentation provided an overview of the features of inclusive, lifecycle social security systems and evaluated the progress that Bangladesh has made towards building such a system. The presentation gave costed options for implementing an inclusive, lifecycle social security system comprising universal child, disability and old age benefits, showing that different options would range between costing 0.5 – 1.5 per cent of Bangladesh’s current GDP. This is significantly lower than the 2.5 per cent of GDP currently budgeted for over 50 different social assistance programmes and is fiscally feasible to introduce over time, in light of the 7 per cent growth rate the country is currently experiencing.
The second presentation reflected on the evidence that a universal approach to social protection is key to achieving the goal of leaving no-one behind. The presentation showed how poverty targeting – including the Proxy Means Test, which is being strongly promoted in Bangladesh – has high errors, is very costly to deliver and undermines trust in government. A citizenship-based approach to building the national social security system would be more appropriate for strengthening the social contract.
This annual conference comes at a critical time – following the Mid-Term Progress Review on the Implementation of the NSSS, undertaken earlier this year – and has provided a valuable opportunity for the relevant actors and stakeholders in Bangladesh to reflect on the direction of social security going forward.