For sustainable poverty reduction
A survey conducted at least a decade ago by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 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 seemed to be well behind Bangladesh in this respect.
There was noted further success in poverty alleviation in recent years. According to claims made by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), 31.5 per cent of the people in Bangladesh were living a life below the poverty line. Thus, there was noted significant reduction in poverty under the present government.
But according to a very recent report of the World Bank, Bangladesh’s poverty rate fell from 82% in 1972, to 18.5% in 2010, to 13.8% in 2016, and below 9% in 2018,as measured by thepercentage of people living below the international extreme poverty line. Thus, the newest survey of poverty in Bangladesh by World Bank is very encouraging to say the least.
Nonetheless, 9 per cent of the people still living below the extreme poverty line in a total population of over 160 million do suggest that there is still a considerably large number to be freed from the throes of poverty. Besides, the outcome of thelatest poverty survey cannot be relied on so completely also because the same can mask many unrecognised developments. It 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 making a major sustainable impact. The road to sustainable poverty alleviation remains long and hard and policy makers need to apply themselves with even greater dedication to make an irreversible dent in the remaining poverty situation.
Winning over poverty in any economy depends crucially on acceleration of economic growth. The rate of economic growth in Bangladesh at nearly6 per cent on average in recent 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 relatively smaller sections 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 for conclusive victory 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.
It appears that the greatest contribution to making rapid progress against the remaining poverty hinges crucially on maintaining political and social stability. The new elected government in the country seems very resolved to implement its developmental plans learning from past mistakes. Therefore, it should be given the space and time to implement its plans without facingharassments such as violent and agitational programmes that would impact adversely on economic activities.
The new government appears keen on pushing the economic growth rate to a notably higher level that would no doubt open the gates for much greater opportunities for job creation and income enhancement in the near future. It has set its eye on pulling up the economic growth rate from the present a little over 6 per cent to 10 per cent and even beyond. Needless to say, this government will be enabled to work for the higher growth rate only on finding a sustainable environment of political and social stability.