Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)– The World Bank (WB) has approved an additional $245 million to improve the equity, efficiency and transparency of major safety net programmes in Bangladesh.

To support the poor and vulnerable, the government implements a number of safety net programs, according to a WB statement.

The financing to the ongoing Safety Net Systems for the Poorest Project will benefit nine million poorest households.

The credit is from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessional lending arm. The credits are interest-free and repayable in 38 years, including a six-year grace period, and carry a service charge of 0.75 per cent.

It will help improve performance of some of the country’s largest safety net programs, which are implemented by the Department of Disaster Management. These safety nets include public workfare and humanitarian assistance programs.

“In FY 2017, Bangladesh spent around $3.5 billion on social protection, which is about 1.4 percent of its Gross Domestic Product,” said Rajashree Paralkar, Operations Manager, World Bank. “By effectively identifying poor households and administering the safety net programs, the government will continue to reduce poverty and ensure effective use of public resources.”

To help streamline safety net programme administration, the project is helping build common platforms for improved beneficiary targeting, information management, and digital payment.

The financing will support the Department of Disaster Management to roll out a management information system to administer beneficiary records and program processes, as well as expand digital payment to beneficiaries with greater efficiency and transparency.

It will also support the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics to complete the country’s first universal poverty registry–the National Household Database–which will be integrated with external information systems, allowing various ministries and agencies to use its data for more equitable beneficiary selection.

With the additional financing, the World Bank’s total commitment to the Project stands at $745 million. The project will close on June 30, 2019.

The WB was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Since then the World Bank has committed over $26 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country. In recent years, Bangladesh has been the largest recipient of the WB’s interest-free credits.