Save the Children (SC) has come up with a right suggestion at the right moment. This international organisation works for the welfare of the children therefore they know it better in which areas more money will be needed. According to the SC, in order to keep the country in track with the sustainable development targets (SDGs), the government should significantly increase budgetary allocation in health, education, child health, safety net issues in the budget for 2019-20.
They said this while making recommendations about child protection and development keeping the National Budget (201-20-20) ahead. It has been revealed that the last national budget for 2018-19 was given in the context of a 5.5 million out-of-school children in the country, poor quality of education, high under five mortality rate, low access to health and education services for children with disabilities, increasing violence against children, child marriage, and so on.
At that time, funds were allocated for more schools, disabled friendly infrastructure initiative, strengthening safety net programme for children with disability, etc. But on the other hand, there was decreased share of social sector allocations in the budget.
Experts feel the child rights context remains the same for the upcoming budget for the year 2019-20, but with greater financial capacity of the government to respond. As media reports suggest, we are going to have a budget of over 5 trillion this year, which will be about 11 percent larger than the previous one. Given the child rights context and the need of the children, Save the Children recommends the following measures for consideration in the upcoming budget for 2019-20.
Health budget as a portion of the total budget is declining. This is a major concern that needs to be addressed. Health budget declined from 5.2 percent in FY2017-18 to 5.0 percent in FY2018-19. Bangladesh has achieved success in reducing maternal and child mortality rate, so health budget needs to focus on improved nutritional status, particularly at early ages. Mid-day meal at schools is a great tool in this regard and Save the Children recommends greater coverage in the budget for 2019-20, especially in the disadvantage regions. Health budget needs to address geographic pockets of malnutrition. It needs to be kept in mind that these pockets are not merely poverty induced.
At the same time SC feels that education budget is declining from FY2017-18 to FY2018-19 as a percentage of total budget and now stands at 11.4 percent only against the UNESCO suggested level of 20 percent. It has been seen that there has been quantitative improvement in education instead of qualitative. Save the Children suggests education investment is needed to prepare infrastructure in support of preschool activities and strengthened technical and vocational education.