World Bank considers giving loan to Bengal for social welfare schemes

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WASHINGTON, April 17, 2020 (Xinhua) -- Photo taken on April 17, 2020 shows the World Bank headquarters in Washington D.C., the United States. The World Bank Group (WBG) is expected to launch health emergency programs in over 100 countries by the end of April to support the fight against COVID-19, with 64 already in operation, President David Malpass said Friday. (Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua/IANS)

The World Bank is considering approving a loan of 125 million dollars to the West Bengal government to help its efforts to strengthen and empower the vulnerable groups of society.

To avail the loan the state government will have to engage an Independent Verification Agency (IVA) that will verify the Disbursement Linked Results (DLR).

The World Bank intends to finance the state government towards the cost of the “Women’s Empowerment and Inclusive Social Protection Programme” and apply part of the proceeds for consulting services. This will help in certain welfare schemes launched by the state government like ‘Kanyashree’, ‘Rupashree’, ‘Lakshmir Bhandar’, ‘Swastha Sathi’, ‘Widow Pension’ and ‘Old Age Pension’.

The state government has embarked on a long-term strategy to enhance inclusiveness of its social protection schemes to address these emerging needs and challenges that the economy faces. Primarily, the State is focused on widows, who have a challenging social position with little or no inheritance rights and high levels of dependence on their children.

The state also provides disability pensions – a scheme to support affordable household-community based care, ruling out the need for expensive institutional care. Apart from that the state also has low labour force participation of women like Kanyashree and Rupashree.

This will not only help the state government to help develop the policy framework and tools for a unified delivery system at the state level but the proposed operation aims to strengthen the capability of the state to build an inclusive and efficient social protection system, which will empower the vulnerable groups. The program is designed for the Widows and Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe Senior Citizens. This will allow greater expenditure benchmarking for state schemes and improve citizens’ access by combining IT with frontline case management.

According to the finance department the state government and the Bank have agreed to concentrate Bank financing in two key result areas that contribute to the achievement of Program Developing Objective (PDO). The areas include strengthening Social Protection Delivery Systems for Vulnerable Populations and empowering Women and Vulnerable Populations. In order to provide evidence of continued progress towards the PDO as well as achievement of intermediate outcomes, the state government and the Bank have agreed on a set of Disbursement-Linked Indicators (DLIs).

As a part of the understanding with the Bank the state government will have to engage an IVA that will verify periodically, through paper and physical inspection and field survey, the accuracy and quality of results and eligible disbursement amounts claimed by the state government in its documentation supporting each disbursement claim.

“This will be a huge boost to the social welfare schemes. In this pandemic situation when the country is suffering from an economic slowdown this will help the state government to carry forward its social welfare schemes more effectively,” a senior finance department official said.

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