Bangladesh Govt starts working on 2nd PRSP

Khawaza Main Uddin, NewAge, November 13, 2007. Dhaka, Bangladesh

The government has initiated the process of formulating the second version of the lender-driven poverty reduction strategy paper to be effective from fiscal year 2008-09 on expiry of the current development document at the end of the current fiscal.

The initiative has been taken recently without assessing the impacts of the current strategy styled ‘Unlocking the Potentials: National Strategy for Accelerated Poverty Reduction’, say officials of the government agencies concerned.

The government is supposed to prepare and present a review report on the strategy paper at the Poverty Reduction Forum with international lenders and donors expected to be held in January.

An independent committee on PRS implementation may also come up with a report in January 2008, officials at the General Economics Division of the Planning Commission informed New Age.

‘Updating the three-year rolling plan and policy matrix may be the major focus of the next PRSP,’ said economist Hossain Zillur Rahman, a member of the independent committee who was also involved in authoring the current document.

The strategy paper was incorporated into the budgetary process in 2004-05 through a three-year rolling plan, which was later extended for one more fiscal year.

The document was endorsed by the cabinet of Khaleda Zia, although a cabinet minister, Abdul Moyeen Khan, had thrown away a copy of the PRSP at a function in Dhaka in presence of donors and lenders in 2006. Moyeen Khan had made an attempt to prepare a 15-year perspective plan during Khaleda’s first stint in office but failed due to opposition from colleagues.

Asked if the second document would be more home-grown than the first one, which was prepared under diktats of the multilateral lending agencies, an official concerned said there would be ‘shadow of the lenders’ in it as the government would hold dialogue with them as well.

The General Economics Division as the focal point for formulation of such development policy documents has already formed 20 thematic groups to make suggestions on various aspects of the second PRSP.

The finance secretary, Mohammad Tareq, has been made the team leader of a 21-member group assigned to prepare a thematic paper on Social Safety Net including Food Security, Disaster Management, Micro-Credit and Rural Development/Non-Development Activities.

The members have also been asked to give their inputs for preparing the theme paper by November 30, according to an official notification.

‘Since this is a policy document, not something specifically on programmes, the second PRSP will be more or less same as the first one. The entire task is due to be completed before June 2008 so that the objectives can be inserted in the next budget,’ said a finance ministry high official.

Apart from internal exercises, the General Economics Division is expected to hold consultation meetings with the media and the civil society, including non-governmental organisations and the business community, to give the PRSP a ‘popular face’.

The prescriptions of multilateral lending agencies for preparing the PRSP were given when the late Shah AMS Kibria was the finance minister, and the finance and planning minister of the BNP-led alliance government, M Saifur Rahman, swallowed the lenders’ recipes by embarking on the PRSP.

Asked about the redundancy of the second PRSP when the government is preparing a long-term participatory perspective plan, an official concerned said the PRSP would be a part of the greater plan eying 2021 as the deadline for making the country free of poverty and corruption.

A project styled Outline Participatory Perspective Plan will design the document, which will include a vision-2030 of a prosperous Bangladesh, leaving behind a trail of unrealised development plans and goals.

The division has meantime identified 18 areas of economic, social and other issues dealt with by various ministries and divisions for incorporating in the perspective plan.

The country had adopted four five-year plans till 2002 interspersed with a two-year plan undertaken during the rule of the late president Ziaur Rahman.

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