The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is likely to provide a US$500 million policy-based loan in two phases by June next year as budget support to strengthen the social resilience of people in Bangladesh, officials said.
A fact-finding mission of the Manila-based lender will visit Dhaka next week, led by Hiroko Uchimura-Shiroishi, the principal social sector specialist of the ADB.
The mission will discuss and finalise policy actions, compliance documents, performance indicators, loan terms, implementation arrangements, the scope and activities of technical assistance and the programme processing timeline.
This will be the second time the ADB is providing a loan to strengthen social resilience in Bangladesh, which also aims at improving social safety policies. Earlier, two sub-programmes totalling US$500 million were provided for the same purpose.
Sub-programme 1 of the first loan package covered eligible beneficiaries in 150 upazilas. During the implementation of sub-programme 2 in the last fiscal year, eligible beneficiaries in an additional 112 upazilas were brought under coverage.
Officials at the Ministry of Finance emphasised the critical role of continued social protection support for the poor in cushioning the impacts of the pandemic and global financial crises arising from the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East.
According to the first phase completion report of the earlier loan package, two allowance programmes – the Old Age Allowance (OAA) and Widow Allowance (WA) – achieved full coverage of eligible beneficiaries under each programme.
By June 2023, this covered a total of 262 upazilas, with the number of beneficiaries reaching 5.70 million under OAA and 2.48 million under WA in the fiscal year 2022-2023.
Moreover, the number of beneficiaries under the Mother and Child Benefit Programme (MCBP) increased by 0.21 million to 1.25 million in FY23 compared to the previous year.
“To ensure food security, the government increased the volume of subsidised grains under the open market sales programme by 420,000 tonnes of rice and 138,000 tonnes of wheat in FY 2021-2022,” the report says.
M A Razzaque, a technical assistance expert of the ADB, told The Financial Express on Monday that the second phase of the programme will initially begin with a $250 million fund release from the ADB by June this year, with the possibility of another $250 million by June 2025.
The funds will be provided as budget support to the government, targeting the enhancement of social protection for the people, he said.
The new programme will prioritise increasing the amount and coverage of allowances for both the elderly and widows, alongside strengthening institutional capacity and enhancing social protection through financial inclusion, he noted.
“There are also plans to include people affected by the impacts of climate change as beneficiaries to enhance resilience,” Mr Razzaque added.
According to a finance ministry official, the new phase of the programme will prioritise improving social protection initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of Social Welfare.
Besides, consolidation of support provided under various arrangements and strengthening governance in social protection will also be emphasised under the ADB-funded programme, he said.
ADB plans 500 dollars budget OAA WA