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Experts Call for Enhanced Social Safety Nets Amid Dire Inflation in Bangladesh

Experts have voiced concerns that current social safety-net programs are inadequate in addressing the severe inflation in Bangladesh. This sentiment was shared during a pre-budget discussion on Wednesday.

Economists, experts, and representatives of marginalized communities participated in the Public-Budget Parliament discussion, emphasizing the need for increased social support. They demanded a minimum tax-free income limit of Tk6 lakh and at least 100 days of work per year at Tk500 per day for the ultra-poor.

The discussants also called for the introduction of a rationing system for low-income individuals, including informal sector workers, and the creation of a national database. They suggested that the government should cover premiums for low-income earners to make pension schemes truly universal.

The event, held at the Cirdap Auditorium in the capital, was jointly organized by Oxfam and the Democratic Budget Movement, with co-hosts Safety and Rights Society (SRS), Participatory Research Action and Network (PRAN), and The Earth.

The first session, titled “Public Proposals to Deal with Inflation and Financial Stress,” featured speakers like Dr. MM Akash from Dhaka University, former MP Dr. Shamim Haider Patwari, and CPD’s Dr. Khondaker Golam Moazzem. They highlighted the severe impact of inflation, averaging 12% over the past two-three years, which has reduced people’s average income by about 24%.

Dr. Akash pointed out that corruption among businessmen, bureaucrats, and politicians is exacerbating the problem, with resources being laundered out of the country. He suggested that stopping money laundering could help fulfill many social safety-net demands.

Former MP Shamim Patwari criticized the current budget management for being too focused on bureaucratic and business interests, rather than public welfare. He called for greater participation of local governments in budget formulation and criticized the lack of budget allocation for the judiciary, migration, and skill development.

Dr. Golam Moazzem emphasized that economic inequality persists due to policy weaknesses and imbalanced resource distribution. He advocated for doubling social security allowances and enacting the Pension and Universal Social Security Act.

The second session, titled “Investing in Green Economy, Just Transition, and Youth Dividend,” featured papers presented by M. Zakir Hossain Khan, Rubaya Nasrin Shejuti, and Mosleh Uddin Suchok. They highlighted the importance of green employment and transitioning to clean, renewable energy.

Around 25 representatives from various sectors and regions participated in the parliament, advocating for housing schemes for low-income individuals, fair payment for farmers, special allowances for working mothers, community day care, increased allowances for disabled persons, technical education, and development allocations for Dalit communities and coastal areas.

The experts stressed the need for policy changes and specific budget allocations to support these initiatives and ensure a fair, sustainable economic future for Bangladesh.

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