World Bank approves loan of $125mn to Bengal govt

In a significant recognition to the social welfare schemes launched by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the World Bank has approved a loan of $125 million (nearly Rs 1,000 crore) for inclusive social protection.

Earlier, IANS had indicated that the World Bank intends to finance the state government towards the cost of the “Women’s Empowerment and Inclusive Social Protection Programme” and apply part of the proceeds for consulting services. This will help in certain welfare schemes launched by the state government like ‘Kanyashree’, ‘Rupashree’, ‘Lakshmir Bhandar’, ‘Swastha Sathi’, ‘Widow Pension’ and ‘Old Age Pension’.

On Saturday, in a press statement, the state government announced that the World Bank on January 19 in recognition of these efforts of the state government has sanctioned $125 million (about Rs 1,000 crore) loan to the West Bengal government to support the state’s effort to help the poor and vulnerable groups access social protection services. Mamata Banerjee’s earnest endeavour to identify the problems of the weaker sections of the society and redress them has paid a huge dividend, the statement read.

The World Bank communique states that West Bengal runs more than 400 programmes which provide social assistance, protection, care services and jobs through an umbrella platform ‘Joy Bangla’, the state’s unified delivery system with focus on vulnerable group such as women, elderly, tribal and scheduled caste, people with disabilities and those in the disaster-prone coastal regions,

The unique ‘Duare Sarkar’ programme has been able ensure improved and faster identification of beneficiaries, providing service delivery at the doorsteps of the citizens and monitoring benefit delivery will get impetus under this World Bank assisted social protection scheme.

The loan under the “West Bengal Building State Capability for Inclusive Social Protection” operation will strengthen the capability of this state to expand coverage and access to social assistance and targeted service for poor and vulnerable groups of the state, the statement read.

This World Bank assisted programme will help the state in improved ease of access for citizens to avail social protection services, medical help through tele-medicine, improved support for elderly and differently abled; financial Inclusion of citizens with digital payment, improved targeting, identification and disbursement of benefits for the public schemes, efficient execution and monitoring of welfare schemes; standardized beneficiary experience across state for all public and social welfare services and benefits and enhanced efficiency, transparency and accountability in delivery of welfare services and benefits.

Earlier, the World Bank had said that the state government will have to engage an Independent Verification Agency (IVA) that will verify the Disbursement Linked Results and if proven satisfactory, then only the bank will disburse the loan.

According to the state finance department the state government and the Bank have agreed to concentrate Bank financing into two key Result areas that contribute to the achievement of Program Developing Objective (PDO).

The areas include strengthening Social Protection Delivery Systems for Vulnerable Populations empowering Women and Vulnerable Populations.

In order to provide evidence of continued progress towards the PDO as well as achievement of intermediate outcomes, the state government and the Bank have agreed on a set of Disbursement-Linked Indicators (DLIs).

As a part of the understanding with the bank, the state government had to engage an IVA who verified periodically, through paper and physical inspection and field survey wherever applicable to confirm the accuracy and quality of results and eligible disbursement amounts, claimed by the state government in its documentation supporting each disbursement claim. In accordance with good audit practice, the verification will take place against a verification framework and frequency.

“This will be huge boost to the social welfare schemes. In this pandemic situation when the country is suffering from an economic slowdown this will help the state government to carry forward its social welfare schemes more effectively,” a senior finance department official said.

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