World Bank offers $125m loan to support social welfare services in West Bengal

The World Bank has offered a $125 million loan to support efforts to help poor and vulnerable groups access social protection services in the state of West Bengal, the Union Finance Ministry announced on Thursday. . West Bengal operates over 400 programs which provide social assistance, care services and employment. Most of these services are offered through an umbrella platform called Jai Bangla. The West Bengal State Capacity Building Project for Inclusive Social Protection will support these interventions at the state level, with particular focus on vulnerable groups such as women, tribal and scheduled caste households. , and the elderly, as well as households in disaster-prone areas of the state. coastal regions.

The Government of India, the Government of West Bengal and the World Bank have signed an agreement for the $125 million loan which will be provided through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). The agreement was signed by Rajat Kumar Mishra, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance on behalf of the Government of India; Sudip Kumar Sinha, Secretary, Department of Finance on behalf of the Government of West Bengal, and Junaid Ahmad, Country Director, India on behalf of the World Bank.

A recent survey found that while food and in-kind transfers reach most poor and vulnerable households in West Bengal, cash transfer coverage is low. Access to social pensions for the elderly, widows and people with disabilities is also low due to cumbersome application processes and a lack of automated application and eligibility verification systems. “Over the next four years, the project will help build the state’s capacity to expand coverage and access to social assistance and provide cash transfers to the poor and vulnerable through a registry Consolidated Social Fund,” the Union Finance Ministry said.

West Bengal faces challenges related to manual data entry, inconsistent beneficiary data across departments, and a lack of data storage and exchange protocols. The project will help digitize the state’s unified distribution system, the Jai Bangla platform, to help consolidate disparate social assistance programs and accelerate the distribution of social pensions to vulnerable and poor households. The project will also support the creation of a teleconsultation network for social care services, complemented by a cadre of caseworkers who can help households with advice on elderly care and links to services. and health facilities. It will also create an institutional platform to improve the coordination and effectiveness of government interventions to address the low participation of women in the labor force, the ministry said. (ANI)

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Joel C. Hicks