This project undertakes comparative research into the under-researched issue of the politics of implementation of social protection programmes. It studies cases in Bangladesh as a contribution to a wider comparative study of how the implementation of social protection is both shaped by and transforms state-society relations.
The focus of the research will be the implementation of the Primary Education Stipend Programme (PESP), a Government of Bangladesh scheme that currently reaches approximately 60% of rural public primary school students, with a small monthly payment in theory dependent on meeting attendance and examination performance requirements. This scheme started in 2002 and is an early example of a conditional cash transfer, with the payments going to mothers, who have until recently collected these from a local bank.
The PESP is a programme that has enjoyed great political continuity and expansion over the past decade and a half, and now reaches a majority of rural public school pupils (that is, has almost-universal characteristics). In principle, PESP appears to be part of a programmatic policy agenda, rather than a vehicle for short-term political gains.
Local level fieldwork, via a mixture of semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions will be used to gather primary data, will be undertaken with sites selected according to variation in state-society relations and the implementation of particular social protection programmes. Each of these sites may comprise several villages or communities at the ward or union levels of the rural administrative system, which will give the opportunity to isolate local-level as distinct from school-level factors (as the school itself is the frontline implementation unit) that shape implementation. Comparative analysis will be undertaken of selected sites according to both pre-identified variables and themes, and in response to findings as the research unfolds.