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The government is going to provide Tk 2,500 as cash support to each of 3.5 million poor families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year the government provided them with the same amount of money during the first wave of deadly disease.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the cash distribution at a virtual event on 2 May, officials said.

While inquired about the logic behind supporting the same number of poor families, it was found that the government has no data about the new poor.

Last year, the government allocated Tk12.5 billion to provide cash support to 5 million poor with Tk2,500 each in the country. However, the financial support did not reach 1.5 million poor families due to lack of proper database.

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An official at the finance division said that the cash distribution would start on 2 May.

From the next week, 100 thousand farmers affected by the 4 April nor’easter and hailstorm would receive Tk 5,000 as cash support. A list of the affected farmers is being prepared according to department of agricultural extension’s database.

Finance minister A H M Mustafa Kamal, though, did not confirm about the date, told Prothom Alo, “Soon the government will inaugurate the cash distribution.”

A couple of days ago, prime minister approved the finance division’s draft proposal on cash support for the poor families and farmers. The two target groups would receive the money through mobile financial services (MFS).

The finance ministry sources said the government would spend Tk9.3 billion–Tk8.80 million for poor families and Tk 500 million for farmers–to facilitate the cash support.

New poor still out of list

Recent studies by non-government organisation BRAC and Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) suggest that Bangladesh has witnessed around 25 million new poor due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the government still considers the old list of poor for fresh cash suppoart.

Last year, the government released Tk9.12 billion from the allocated Tk12.50 billion for 5 million poor families. Among the targeted families, 3,607,872 in total received Tk8.11 billion. Officials said that Tk4.39 billion of cash was left undistributed.

On 25 February, Bangladesh Bank informed finance division in a letter that 402,168 poor families did not receive cash aid the government had allocated for them. Hence, Tk 1.01 billion (101.15 crore) of the state exchequer remained in the hands of four MFS providers-bKash, Nagad, Rocket and SureCash.

Soon after starting distribution of the cash aid last year, the finance division found people, who are not poor, in the beneficiary list.

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Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on 14 May 2020 inaugurated distribution of cash support for poor families.

To facilitate the initiative, local administration and public representatives assisted the government to prepare a list of 5 million poor families.

While the cash aid was being distributed, the list was found incorrect as it contained nonpoor too. Therefore, the government dropped 1.43 million (14.33 lakh) ineligible people from the list.

Speaking on the issue, professor Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir of department of development studies under the University of Dhaka, told Prothom Alo, “The second wave of Covid-19 hits Bangladesh while the country is still coping with the shock by the first wave. Many more people have fallen into poverty in one year."

"Unfortunately, a proper list of the poor has not been made yet while one year was enough to do this in accordance with verified national identity number and cell phone number. Due to the failure, the government is able to assist only 3.5 million poor with the cash support.”

*This report appeared in the online and print editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Sadiqur Rahman.

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