Billions are now being distributed to citizens by governments to stave off rising poverty from COVID-19. The unprecedented pandemic demands an unprecedented government response. More than 126 countries have already introduced or adapted social protection or labour policies to assist those in need. The World Bank, which has played a key role in building infant social protection systems in many developing countries, has urged countries, including Bangladesh, to increase safety nets in response to COVID-19:
- How social protection can help countries cope with COVID-19
- Bangladesh Must Ramp Up COVID-19 Action to Protect its People, Revive Economy
But bureaucrats – under intense pressure to deliver fast cash transfers – may not always reach those in need. Approaches exist – and are already being used – to ensure citizen feedback to government agencies so that government and donor social protection programmes reach those who need it most. Social accountability – or citizen feedback to government – has a decades-long history in India to ensure safety nets reach the most vulnerable. It has been used across the world, including Bangladesh, Indonesia, Paraguay, and elsewhere.