Foreign donors' commitment to NGOs operating in Bangladesh for providing them with funds through a government regulatory body has declined sharply in the last fiscal year (FY) 2019-2020 mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the data available with the NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB), the commitment for the grants decreased by almost 17 per cent to Tk 75.59 billion in the FY 2019-2020 from Tk 91.18 billion in the previous fiscal (2018-19).
The pandemic also caused a slight decrease in the amount of released funds during the same period, the NGOAB data also revealed.
Tk 78.50 billion was released in the last fiscal, around one per cent decrease from Tk 79.29 billion in the FY 2018-19.
The inflow of grants donated by the foreign entities, except for United Nations (UN) organisations, needs to be approved by the NGOAB, a regulatory organisation under the Prime Minister's Office.
The bureau approved 1,655 projects in the last fiscal (2020), up by 55 from 1,600 in the previous year.
An official at NGOAB said Bangladesh has been witnessing an upward trend in both the commitment for grant and released amount since the FY 2018.
"The influx of Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh at the end of August 2017 created the avenue for rising volumes of foreign grants, which curved down in the last fiscal due to outbreak of Covid-19," he said.
The virus has affected many developed nations since the mid of the last fiscal while all activities were suspended in Bangladesh since March, he added.
When contacted, Dr. Md. Jashim Uddin, a deputy managing director of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation said the financial institution is currently focusing on enhancing loan disbursement to restore the economic activities for the sake country's people.
"The last quarter of the 2020 fiscal has been virtually halted for almost every sector in Bangladesh," he said, adding that usually, a significant amount of disbursement takes place in the concluding months of a fiscal year.
He, however, said now every stakeholder is gearing up to run the economic wheel smoothly.
"Now NGOs must focus on generating employment on a priority basis as a large number of people have become unemployed due to this pandemic," the official said in reply to a query.
Funding dealt by PKSF is not included in the NGOAB data, he noted.
KAM Morshed, Senior Director at BRAC, a Bangladesh-based international NGO, said as Bangladesh has been preparing to graduate to a developing country, it has been witnessing a downward trajectory in foreign grants in recent years.
The country has received a good amount of funds from the UN bodies to fight Covid-19 in recent months, he said, adding that the data is not registered with NGOAB.
Mr Morshed, a development sector expert, believes that the country is likely to get less grants gradually in the coming days.
"Bangladesh is getting stronger as an economy while many developed countries will lessen their donation here as their own economy may shrink due to the pandemic," he said, adding that the context of Covid-19 will divert the fund from Bangladesh to other countries that registered more deaths.
He underscored the need for government funding for NGOs, and equal distribution of development activities in all parts of the country.
"NGOs need to ensure optimum use of resources by coordinating among themselves finding the best way of delivery of programmes," he said.
According to the data available as of June this year, 2,254 local and 257 international NGOs are contributing to the country's socio-economic development.