Experts suggest specific programs for the new poor


| Update:
June 26, 2021, 9:20 a.m.

Speakers during a webinar highlighted the need to introduce specific schemes as part of social protection programs for the new poor that have emerged amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

They also stressed the importance of preparing a comprehensive database for social safety net programs and giving adequate political attention to informal economic activities.

Speakers highlighted the importance of their speech during a policy webinar titled “Impact of Covid and Social Protection Challenges: Cities and the New Poor” hosted by the Power and Participation Research Center (PPRC) on Thursday evening ,

Member of the General Economics Division (GED) of the Planning Commission Dr Shamsul Alam, Global Head of Social Assistance of the World Bank Ugo Gentilini, CEO of Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund Qazi Azmat Isa, Head of Social Policy , Evidence and Assessment, UNICEF Nepal Usha Mishra and BRAC Bangladesh Executive Director Asif Saleh took part in the panel discussion moderated by PPRC Executive Chairman Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman.

At the start of the event, Dr Rahman presented an introductory article titled “Covid-19 Crisis and New Vulnerabilities: The Urgency to Rethink Social Protection” which highlighted the findings of a study conducted by PPRC and Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD).

He said that four vulnerabilities have emerged as a result of Covid-19, namely the uncertainty of the income of informal professions, the increased burden of non-food expenditure on low-income city dwellers, the erosion of the capacity to financial adjustment and the new poor who are not covered by social protection.

The income level of the population has declined significantly while non-food expenditure has increased by 98% in the last year, mainly due to the rising cost of rent, health care, transportation and utilities. , he added.

“A new candidate for social protection, households that have fallen into poverty and have not been able to return to pre-Covid income levels a year after the start of the crisis,” said the opening document and added: “The PPRC-BIGD study, extrapolating from its survey data, estimated the national size of this group at 24.5 million in March 2021.”

Asif Saleh said the new poor are not a homogeneous category, which is why the “one size fits all” approach will not work to solve their problems.

He described BRAC’s response by focusing on specific categories of the new poor such as return migrants, urban families forced to resettle in other urban or rural areas without any livelihood strategy.

Dr Shamsul Alam said the new poor have suddenly appeared due to their lack of social protection. “The number of people affected by poverty is not static and changes with various incidents, including natural disasters and a pandemic.”

Regarding the new poor, he also said that no one really knew that a calamity like Covid-19 was emerging.

“When the situation returned to normal with the decline in the infection rate, no one in government and civil society could think of the new poor brought on by the resurgence of Covid,” he said.

Mr. Alam also stressed the need for a comprehensive household database to provide rapid social protection responses in times of crisis.

Summarizing the discussion, Hossain Zillur Rahman identified three new priorities – urban social protection, care for the “new poor” and a new political approach – in the informal economy.

He noted that 55 percent of Bangladesh’s GDP comes from the service sector and a large part of this sector is made up of various businesses and informal activities.

The webinar ended with the PPRC-BIGD research publication titled “Livelihoods, Coping and Recovery During the Covid-19 Crisis”.

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