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The Financial Express

Making charity meaningful


- Representational image - Representational image

During the last two decades, Bangladesh has undergone an economic transformation that has significantly improved the living conditions of the county's people. Nevertheless, the economic growth has been uneven across the regions and communities. Though poverty has declined, the concentration of wealth and resources into a few hands marked wealth creation.  

The Covid-19 pandemic has further compounded the challenge of balanced distribution of growth. Charity or sharing of wealth is a recognised tool to address the uneven distribution of resources. Besides the welfare measures taken by the state to provide support to the underprivileged and vulnerable groups of people, private charity can play an important role. The governments in many countries encouraged charity through tax incentives and social recognition.  

As every religion encourages giving and asks the affluent section of society to share their wealth with the poor and needy, the giver is largely driven by a religious obligation. In Islam, Zakat is a mandatory charity and Muslims who possess a certain amount of wealth are under compulsion to give or distribute at least 2.5 per cent of the wealth and money. People also feel good by providing and acknowledging that it is a moral duty.  

In simple terms, charity is giving money and/or food, or help to those who need it, or an organisation that does this.  

So, charity can be private or individual, corporate or community-based. Many individuals prefer to do charity on their own. They are used to giving to the needy known to them. Some also look for reliable charitable organisations to distribute the donations correctly or to a broader community.  

The main challenge of making a charity meaningful is reaching the right people, which is not always easy. In countries like Bangladesh, citizens prefer various non-government organisations in most cases. Though a few government bodies are also there to collect and distribute charitable funds, people usually do not want to go to these entities unless they find any alternative. It is because there is a perception that the government or state organisations are not efficient enough to handle charitable funds.   

Proliferation of corruption and the gradual erosion of morality in society make proper distribution more difficult. In the case of state-run bodies and organisations, there is a strong perception that a gross misappropriation of funds is unavoidable. The perception is not without a basis. During the pandemic, the government distributed a handsome amount of money to poor people using mobile financial services. A section of unscrupulous government employees and local political activists grabbed the money depriving the target beneficiaries.  

Even if the charitable fund reaches the targeted people properly, they are not always in a position to spend the money according to their need. In many cases, local miscreants demand and snatch a portion of the money. Again, those giving sometimes come under undue pressure from some influential quarters to contribute to their chosen people. Due to political biases or rivalry, some also come under administrative scrutiny about the source of their funds. All these are disturbing things for those who want to do something for the welfare of society by partaking in charity.   

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