Political Vicissitudes of Elderly Welfare: Clientelism and Expansion of Bangladesh’s Old Age Allowance Program

 

Political Vicissitudes of Elderly Welfare: Clientelism and Expansion of Bangladesh’s Old Age Allowance Program

Kam Qiang Wei, NUS Political Science

(Initially published in YNUJ Volume 2, 2018)


Abstract

This article evaluates the efforts made by the Government of Bangladesh to mitigate the protracted issue of elderly welfare, specifically regarding the inadequate pension coverage for a sizeable proportion of elderly. In particular, this article focuses on the Old Age Allowance Programme (OAAP) and how this initiative is used to provide minimal support for the elderly destitute. In doing so, this article argues that the introduction of the OAAP is motivated by political and electoral considerations by tracing political vicissitudes, demographic changes and past social policies that were enacted to assist the elderly. Furthermore, this article emphasizes that ongoing political battles between dominant political parties, centred around clientelist relations, have resulted in substantial targeting errors for the elderly destitute. In particular, the elite capture of social welfare institutions at the national level, coupled with the lack of accountability of local officials, have excluded many of the elderly destitute from social pension benefits. The article concludes that the long-standing social policy problem of inadequate pension coverage for the elderly remains unresolved due to zero-sum political contestations and rivalries in Bangladesh’s electoral democracy.


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