THE non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are a big source of the inflow of foreign funds in the country. The funds are used mainly for poverty alleviation, health, education, research and various other kinds of developmental activities. The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) provides the information about the volume of such funds entering the country from different overseas sources. It also keeps track of any change in the pattern of inflow of such funds in the country. For example, the BBS figures show that during first six months of the current fiscal, the volume of inflow of overseas funds registered a significant rise compared to the overall pattern of fund flow over the entire period of the previous fiscal.
Nevertheless, if compared with the fiscal 2003-04, the tendency of fund flow in the later years is rather on the lower side. The trend of the inflow of foreign fund, therefore, does not remain steady, rather it has its ups and downs. According to another calculation by the BBS, around $3.0 billion worth of funds were released by the overseas donors during the last one decade and a half, while the amount of fund approved by them until the end of December last was about 1.41 times the actual amount released. So there is always a gap between the amount approved by the foreign donors and that actually released. Similarly, the amount of fund finally disbursed to the recipient NGOs may also vary from the previous two figures.
The task of the BBS is only to keep the official record of the fund flow and publish the figures for the consumption of the public and different organisations that use those figures for reference or research. But it cannot say anything about the actual use of the fund by the recipients until and unless the latter provide the BBS, or any other wing of the government with the relevant figures. By the looks of it, the sheer size of the overseas funds reaching the country's NGO sector is a telltale sign of what a gigantic task the voluntary organisations supporting various development activities in different sectors are engaged in.
Compared with other productive sectors of the economy, namely, industry, agriculture and trade, the NGOs constitute a very big stakeholder, if one considers only the amount of hard currency that it handles. But any organisation of the government or an independent watchdog body is yet to come up with the proper statistics on the exact contribution of the NGO sector to the economy in terms of the quantity of services rendered, the volume of productive employment generated and the increase in the level of real income enjoyed by the beneficiaries who are addressed by the NGO-run programmes.
The new generation of NGOs replicate the activities of the government itself and in many cases they complement the tasks of the government. In the poverty alleviation areas in particular, the NGOs are learnt to have been playing a leading role, side by side with the government.