Demography and individual income

Of course, there is no one shot or one oversimplified explanation for the poverty situation in Bangladesh. Nonetheless, economists in all settings go for a standard measure of the national pie and how much of it goes to each member of the population. The formula is simple. Take the net national product (NNP) or the total national income minus depreciations and leakages in a given year and divide it by the total number of the population. That should yield the individual amount available to each member of the population or the per capita income.
The per capita income is not a foolproof reflector of the monetary resources available to every member of a country’s population. There may be concentration of wealth into few hands or coteries, unfair opportunities for distribution of wealth and income regionally and between population segments, etc., that might distort the picture as some or many individuals may be seen actually possessing or earning many times more than the amount of the established per capita income. But that is another aspect.
It should suffice to say that the per capita income, on the whole and generally, is the best that economists can rely on to get a fairly reliable view of the annul availability of resources for consumption available to every person in the population of a country. The per capita income then gives a clue as to the purchasing power of people and the level of their standard of living.
The present per capita income of Bangladesh is $ 1,602. Only from this figures alone it should be possible to see the relationship between the number in the population and per capita income. Supposing, the Bangladesh population last year was only little less than half of the actual number, i.e. 75 million (which actually was the population at the time of the independence of the country), then the per capita income today would be double at nearly US$ 3,204. Population growth has nullified this potentiality of an advance in the per capita income. Notwithstanding the fact that the economic growth in the present decade puts Bangladesh in the fifth position among the top 16 countries of the world in terms of growth, the reflection of that growth in the per capita income was quite small because of the simultaneous growth of the population well above the preferred level in this period.
Even if the economic growth rate in Bangladesh accelerates into the double digit of 10 per cent or its neighbourhood in the next two decades, the present per capita income is unlikely to show any major increase for the simple reason that population would be also growing in this time. The present growth rate of population according to governmental sources is 1.48 per cent. The private views on population growth are higher. Even if the governmental estimate is accepted, there would still be some 180 million Bangladeshis well before the next quarter century in the absence of stringent population control activities. Thus, without limiting population growth, it would be simply impossible for Bangladeshis to enjoy substantially increased per capita income in the future regardless of how well the economy grows.
One example should make it clearer. The per capita income in United States of America is $ 46,716 whereas the same is $2,912 for China. Thus, the resources for spending available to the average American is sixteen times more than the average Chinese. China has been enjoying well over double digit economic growth unmatched by other countries for decades ; it presently has foreign currency reserves worth trillions of dollars and here also other countries are no match for the Chinese. Why then the Chinese per capita income is so low which is seen in the low standards of living suffered by a vast number of the Chinese people in comparison to the much higher standard of living enjoyed by people in the USA and Western Europe ?
The reason is the sheer number of the Chinese people. Unmatched high economic growth, very high productivity levels, unsurpassed export performance year after year, etc., have pinned many distinctions for brilliant performance on the Chinese economy. The total economic pie or NNP of China has been boosted to great heights. But when it comes to sharing the pie among all members in the population, the individual share or the income per capita comes to a meager amount by the standards of the developed countries . China’s total population of 6.77 billion people dwarfs most other countries. The developed countries are required to carve up their large net national incomes among their populations which are far less than that of China. For example, the USA has a population which is more than twenty-two times smaller than China. Therefore, the average American can enjoy a far bigger per capita income than the average Chinese. Thus, the policy planners in Bangladesh must put a far greater emphasis on population control. This has become an absolute imperative for the country to consolidate the gains from the economic advances it is making in different spheres. Population control is a neglected area in Bangladesh today when it should be among the highest priorities of the government and the people of Bangladesh. All kinds of clichés to the effect that the large population of Bangladesh is not a liability and that Bangladeshis in millions can swiftly be turned into productive persons, will not quite prevent the economic catastrophes to be faced by the country from allowing its already overpopulated conditions to turn even worse. All efforts to conquer poverty on a sustainable basis in Bangladesh will be rendered fruitless in the long run if the population is allowed to grow at the present rate.


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