Budget allocation for children: it has decreased relative to GDP over the past two years

Although the child-centered budget allocation has increased in size over the last two fiscal years, it has increased from 2.78% to 2.63% in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

About 20% of the total public spending budget must be spent on children gradually in the coming years to meet the government’s target, speakers said at a panel discussion yesterday.

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They also suggested that the government focus on recovering from learning losses by getting dropouts back to school and ensuring their access to essential health services, preventing child marriage and child labour.

Speakers called on the government to create a separate directorate for children’s affairs to focus more on their rights.

The panel discussion entitled “Allocations for children in public expenditure in Bangladesh” was jointly organized by the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and Unicef, with the support of the European Union, at the Daily Star Center in the capital .

Delivering the keynote address, Professor Mustafizur Rahman, CPD Distinguished Fellow, said: “Although the child-centred budget allocation has been increased by 13.3% over the past two fiscal years, it has increased from 2.78 to 2.63% in terms of GDP.

He said that in terms of share of the total national budget, the child budget remained at 15%.

On learning loss, Mustafizur said citing several reports, “During the pandemic, only 21% of students were able to participate in online or television classes. About 94% of rural students were unable to attend.

About the demographic dividend, he said that the number of dependent people will increase by 2050. “So we need to invest more in today’s children than in adults.”

During a panel discussion, Campaign for Popular Education (Campe) Executive Director Rasheda K Choudhury said, “Children should not only be brought back to school, but also retained.”

She also criticized the limited focus of the Ministries of Cultural Affairs and Food on allocations for the children’s budget.

Veera Mendonca, Representative (Head) of Unicef ​​Bangladesh, said, “Investing in children, especially in their early years, brings the greatest return to the country, $13 return on $1 investment, while realizing their basic rights and giving them an opportunity to grow to their full potential.”

Aroma Dutta, deputy chair of the Parliamentary Caucus on Children’s Rights, said the government needed to have better coordination between the ministries of planning, finance, education and women’s and children’s affairs.

She demanded separate ministries for children’s and women’s affairs.

Speaking at the event as a chief guest, Planning Minister MA Mannan admitted that child marriage has increased during the pandemic.

“We have seen a big increase in the number of child marriages during the pandemic. As the pandemic was not planned, we had no opportunity to reduce it. But we can work to bring them back to school. If they need more than a regular stipend, the relevant ministry would try to provide it to them,” he said.

Kashfia Feroz, director of girls’ rights at Plan International, Bangladesh, described the one per cent allocation for child protection as “depressing”.

Shaheen Anam, Executive Director of the Manusher Jonno Foundation, said, “We are always crying out for more budget, but we usually don’t talk about the implementation or monitor it. We should check how many children have benefited from this allowance,” she said.

Mahfuz Anam, Editor and Publisher of the Daily Star, said: “Unless you remind the government from time to time, the budget allocation for children would not happen. For this, you can seek the help of the media.

He said the budget allocation for children deserved much more media attention.

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