A US$ 125 loan from the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has been signed to fund various social sector programmes of the West Bengal government.
India and World Bank today signed a US$125 million loan to support access to social protection services in the state of West Bengal.
The agreement was signed by Rajat Kumar Mishra of the union finance ministry’s department of economic affairs and Sudip Kumar Sinha of the finance department of the West Bengal government and Mr Junaid Ahmad, the World Bank country director in India who signed the loan document on behalf of the IBRD, a development bank administered by the World Bank.
The loan will “support efforts to help poor and vulnerable groups access social protection services in the state of West Bengal.”
The IBRD loan will fund over 400 programmes providing social assistance, care services and jobs under an umbrella platform, Jai Bangla implemented by the government of West Bengal.
The IBRD loan will cover these programmes. In particular, the loan will provide support the West Bengal for 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 the state’s disaster-prone coastal regions.
Over the next four years, the project will help strengthen the state’s capability to expand coverage and access to social assistance and to deliver cash transfers for the poor and vulnerable through a consolidated social registry.
According to the department of economic affairs, “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to have seamless systems in place to deliver inclusive and equitable social protection in times of crisis. This project will focus on building the capabilities of the state government to expand coverage and access to social assistance and targeted services for poor and vulnerable groups within the state.”
A recent survey found that while food and in-kind transfers reach most poor and vulnerable households in West Bengal, the coverage of cash transfers is weak, a release of the press information bureau says. Access to social pensions by the elderly, widows, and disabled persons is also weak due to cumbersome application processes and a lack of automated systems for application and eligibility verification, says the PIB.
West Bengal faces challenges related to manual data entry, inconsistent beneficiary data across departments, and a lack of data storage and data exchange protocols. The project will help digitize the state’s unified delivery system, the Jai Bangla platform, to help consolidate disparate social assistance programs and speed the delivery of social pensions to vulnerable and poor households.
The project will also support the creation of a tele-consultation network for social care services, complemented by a cadre of case management workers who can help households with advice on eldercare and links to health services and facilities. It will also create an institutional platform to improve coordination and effectiveness of government interventions to address the state’s low participation of women in the labour force.