UNICEF calls to Double Direct Budget Allocation for Children
Dhaka, 26 June 2011: UNICEF has urged the Government of Bangladesh to gradually increase the direct budget allocation for child-related initiatives in the coming years.
Acknowledging the enormous social and economic progress made by the successive post-independence governments of Bangladesh, the report calls for more efficient and effective measures to reduce poverty and uphold the human rights of all Bangladeshi children, with emphasis on the most vulnerable and hard to reach.
The call was made at the launching of a report entitled, “National Budget: Are the Commitments to the Children of Bangladesh Being Kept?” Jointly prepared by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and UNICEF Bangladesh, the report found the child-related share of the total national budget has remained more or less constant over the last few years.
The report was launched by the Chief Guest, Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhit, at a national seminar on ‘Child Friendly Budget’ held at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka. The Seminar was also attended by the State Minister of Women and Children Affairs, Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury.
“Children cannot vote but their voices need to be heard”, states the report, which shows that despite promises made by the Government of Bangladesh to provide better opportunities for children, the share of national budget resources devoted to them has remained dismally low.
The report estimates that the total budget directly allocated for children, including allocations for children’s social safety net programmes as well as the ADP (Annual Development Plan), has been roughly constant over the years and amounts to a mere 4.1 per cent of the national budget of FY (Fiscal Year) 2010-2011.
“The most important asset that this country has – is its 66 million children. If the potential of these children, particularly the roughly 20 million growing up in poverty, is not fully realized, they could become a burden for their country. In that case Bangladesh will not be able to break the inter-generational poverty cycle, achieve the MDGs with equity or achieve its longer term development objectives”, Carel de Rooy, Representative of UNICEF Bangladesh said during the launching.
After analyzing the national budget of the last few years, the study found that most child-related programmes fall under four sectors (out of the 17 sectors of the ADP). These include 1) Education and Religion, 2) Health, Population and Family Welfare, 3) Social welfare, Women and Youth Development, and 4) Labour and Employment. In the targeted ADP of 2010-2011, these four sectors received a total allocation of Tk. 9,607 crore, which is 25 per cent of the total ADP for the year. Despite a substantial increase of the amount of money allocated, the share of the four sectors in the ADP has remained roughly constant over the last several years.
In terms of the Social Safety Net allocation, the report highlights that the share of allocations for child-focused programmes has not changed much either since FY2005-06, remaining at 10.51 per cent in FY2010-11. While the number of Social Safety Net programmes and the amount of money allocated have increased recently, the amount and especially the proportion of these resources are meager when compared with the number of poor and most vulnerable children and the strategic importance for Bangladesh to invest in its human capital development.
Stressing this point, Carel de Rooy said, “Considering the fact that 45 percent of the total population in Bangladesh is children (under the age of 18), we believe that the direct ADP allocation and the Social Safety Net budget for children should be doubled - overtime”.
The report makes ten specific recommendations to create a larger window of resource availability for children and their effective utilization. These include, developing a “pro-child budget” framework; increasing investment for children in a sustainable manner; making special public budgetary allocations for children in urban slums; ensuring children’s participation in budget consultations; adjusting school stipends according to the opportunity cost of schooling of poor children; enhancing coordinated action between the different ministries responsible for disseminating the budget allocation and encouraging strong political commitment for “pro-child budgeting”.
Note to Editor: The report was launched by the Finance Minister, Abul Maal Abdul Muhit as the Chief Guest during a national seminar on ‘Child Friendly Budget’ at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel, Dhaka. The Seminar was also attended by the State Minister of Women and Children Affairs, Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury.
Other key guests included Carel De Rooy, Representative, UNICEF Bangladesh; Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Executive Director and Dr. Fahmida Khatun, Additional Director and Head of Research of CPD; Professor Dr. Wahiduddin Mahmud and Dr. Abul Barakat spoke on the occasion. The seminar was also attended by Jewel Aich, UNICEF Advocate for Child Rights.
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