Political stability for poverty alleviation

Publish: 3:09 PM, October 28, 2018 | Update: 3:09:PM, October 28, 2018

The last conducted survey of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) some years ago mentioned that the percentage of people under the poverty line in Bangladesh had come down to 40 per cent. The UNDP report was quoted in several prestigious foreign newspapers as indicative of greater success in poverty alleviation in Bangladesh during the last decade when neighbouring countries like India and Pakistan are well behind Bangladesh in this respect.
There has been further success in poverty alleviation in recent years. According to credible information supplied by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), 24.3per cent of the people in Bangladesh are now living a life below the poverty line and out of them 12.9 per cent are in extreme poverty. Thus, there has been significant reduction in poverty under the present elected government led by the Awami League.
Nonetheless, 24.3 per cent of the people still living below the poverty line in a total population of over 160 million do suggest that there is still a huge number to be freed from the throes of poverty. Besides, the outcome of the poverty surveys cannot be relied on so completely also because the same can mask many unrecognised developments. The surveys may not have taken into account the number of those who fail to sustain in their existence above the poverty line due to all kinds of adversities that afflict their lives including crop failure, flood, cyclones, river erosion, etc.
These factors and more make accurate poverty estimation a truly formidable exercise in this country. Thus, there is no room for relaxation from a thinking that anti poverty measures are very close to target. The road to poverty alleviation remains still a cumbersome one and policy makers need to apply themselves with even greater dedication to conclusively win over poverty.
Winning over poverty in any economy depends crucially on acceleration of economic growth. The rate of economic growth in Bangladesh at 6 per cent on average in past years has been notably better than many other countries. But this growth has been also criticised as skewed. There are allegations that the fruits of growth have been monopolised by a small section of the population and even the trickle down theory has not worked so much in the case of Bangladesh. Wealth concentration in a few hands, lack of distributive justice in economic policies and corruption seem to have frustrated the desire to relieve a much bigger number in the population from the pains of poverty. Therefore, policy makers will have to address these issues effectively and at the fastest to make truly solid headway against poverty.
Improvement of the overall investment climate, extensive introduction of crop insurance, legal barriers to prevent sale of lands and other assets at gross undervalue during times of financial hardships faced by the poor, improved marketing mechanisms to help primary producers to get better value for their produce, ensuring the receipt of official procurement prices of food grains and other cash crops by farmers, much increased availability of institutional credits without corruption among the rural poor at adequately reduced rates of interest, etc. will go a long way in the endeavours towards sustainable reduction of poverty.
But political stability to ensure continued and uninterrupted economic growth, is also very important for sustainable reduction of poverty. In fact, this factor is being counted as the all important factor that can make or mar poverty alleviation efforts in the country. We have had the very bitter experiences of the main opposition party, BNP, almost paralyzing the economy for a long period in 2014 just to realize its political agenda. The attempt proved futile butit reduced the vital economic growth significantly. Even economic growth in the following years was lower as a consequence of that man-made disaster. Surely, more responsible conduct from this party is expected if it really means what it says, that it is also committed to poverty alleviation.
Unfortunately, signs of such responsible behaviour are not noted as the country is only weeks away from holding the next general election for forming the country’s next government and parliament. It appears crystal clear that the BNP is readying itself for another showdown with the government in the manner of 2014 to make its way to power come what may. This complete disregard for the country’s well-being –specially economic well-being– is very disquieting to say the least. There is still time for all normal quarters in the country to join hands and prevail on the BNP to stop its playing with fire that would lead to the country’s economic ruination after it had made such great progress in recent years.