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‘Child-focused budget’ rather covers budget’s focus on children merely
In addition to announcing a child-focused budget for the 2016-17 fiscal aimed at ensuring the wellbeing of children, experts say the government should establish a strong monitoring system to oversee implementation of the allocations given under various ministries in the budget in order to improve the lot of children, reports UNB.
“If there is no monitoring system, the money allocated for children may remain unspent. This is why a monitoring system should be established under the lead ministry (the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs),” said Md Akram Hossain, a development expert who has long been working on empowerment of working children.
Bangladesh has already achieved marked progress in various socioeconomic indicators, but children have still been facing various difficulties that prevent the full realisation of their rights and needs.
According to official data, around 26.5 million children out of 63 million (46 percent) live below the national poverty line in the country while 32 million children (51 percent) live below the international poverty line.
Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF) chairperson Emranul Huq Chowdhury said a child-focused budget in Bangladesh is the demand of the times.
“Children are our future. So separate investment is needed for better delivery in the future. Investment in children gives good return. If the investment in children is poor, we will get poor outcome,” he said.
Children and youth in Bangladesh remain vulnerable to child labour, child marriage, a lack of access to quality healthcare, malnutrition, high secondary school drop-out rates, violence and abuse, and face difficulties in being heard by authorities, with limited scope for holding decision-makers accountable.
This is why the government adopted the child-focused budget - ‘Blooming Children: Prosperous Bangladesh’ - and allocated around Tk 49,612 crore in the proposed budget of fiscal 2016-17 to it, aiming to implement various programmes for child development.
The allocation, which is 14.5 percent of the national budget, has been given under seven ministries – Primary and Mass Education, Education, Health and Family Welfare, Social Welfare, Women and Children Affairs, Local Government, and Disaster Management and Relief - that are party to the Child-Focused Budget.
Akram Hossain, project manager of An Inclusive Approach to Empowering Working Children project in Dhaka being implemented by Centre for Services and Information on Disability (CSID), said a huge number of children are still involved in child labour in the country’s informal sector, so the government should provide allocation for the Labour Ministry to carry out programmes to get children out of child labour.
Emranul Huq said the government should assess the sectors where there needs to be investment in children and later all should work together to design the child budget.
The government had provided allocations for children in five ministries in the 2015-16 fiscal, the first time a child-focused budget was taken up. Though it includes some seven ministries in fiscal 2016-17, Emranul Huq said some 23 ministries are involved in this regard.
Observing that ensuring coordination among the ministries poses a challenge, the development worker stressed the need for forming a ‘Children’s Affairs Directorate’ under the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs to coordinate the activities of these ministries in implementation of children-related projects.
Emranul urged the authorities concerned to also form a children’s affairs committee in line with the Children Act-2013.
Wahida Banu, executive director of local NGO Aparajeyo Bangladesh that has been working for underprivileged children in the country, said the government should provide sector-wise allocation for children to ensure their education, shelter, health, social security as well as proper facilities to grow up.
She said the government should formulate a separate plan and allocation for the underprivileged children aiming to bring them into the mainstream of society.
Wahida Banu also suggested the government hold consultations with the non-government organisations working on children before preparing the child-focused budget to make it an effective one.
The Child-Focused Budget of the government is not a separate budget for children. Rather, it involves examining the extent to which the rights and needs of children are being addressed in the government’s overall budget.