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Poverty shrinking fast in Bangladesh

Published : 25 Mar 2021 09:44 PM | Updated : 02 Apr 2021 07:54 PM

Bangladesh has made a phenomenal progress in economic development in the last 50 years and become a role model of the world for poverty reduction, experts said.

In 1971, about 80 percent of the population lived below the poverty line, but  the figure was 20.50 percent in the beginning of the last year.

For today’s achievement of the country, Economists said credit goes to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Father of the nation, for today’s achievement as he took up three important policies including boost in food production, population control and quality education after Independence.  

Bangabandhu started working to build ‘Sonar Bangla’ as he dreamt of but,anti-independence  forces stopped that initiative by killing him with most of his family members on August 15,1975, they mentioned.

After that, we did not see massive development of the country, they said.

Had Bangabandhu survived for another decade,  the way he was linked to the foundation of the economy, could have helped us to build a developed country like  Singapore and Malaysia which have strong leaders, they further said.

Although   Awami League under the leadership of Bangabandhu’s daughter the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took step for developing the country, this development again stopped as Awami League could not continue  to be in the government, they mentioned.

Finally, under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the country turns almost ‘Sonar Bangla’ as most of the criteria have already been fulfilled and it has target to achieve a developed country status by 2041, they added.

After the partition of India in 1947, the nation was exploited by the West Pakistanis for two decades. 

During their rule, Bangladesh, then known as East Pakistan, had to accept economic disparity. West Pakistanis used to enjoy the financial benefits of the labor of all including peasants, workers and laborers of this land. 

And that is why, even though massive economic activities took place  at that time, the poverty rate in the country was more than 80 percent at the time of independence in 1971.

After 50 years of independence, the poverty rate has come down to 20 percent. In other words, in the five decades since independence, poverty  has been reduced by more than 60 percent.

The World Bank has also called Bangladesh a role model of the world in poverty alleviation. And the country's economists say there is no room for debate on Bangladesh's admirable role in poverty alleviation. 

However, this situation needs to be further addressed. The pace of poverty alleviation needs to be further enhanced. 

At the same time, it is important for those who are above the poverty line to have a stable and sustainable income. 

Considering the Coronavirus situation, this is the main challenge for Bangladesh in the field of poverty alleviation.

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal told reporters on Wednesday Bangladesh will become the fifth tiger in Asia in terms of economy, if the present government stays in power for another five years.

He said the achievements of Bangladesh in different economic and social sectors are much higher over the last five decades as the nation is going to celebrate its golden jubilee of independence this year. 

“Our achievement in each economic and social indicator is much higher,” he said, expressing gratitude to the Almighty.

Referring to the final recommendations from the UN CDP for the graduation of Bangladesh from the LDC status, Kamal said Bangladesh has graduated from the LDCs and none would now be able to label Bangladesh as a “poor” or “extreme poor” country as well as would not be able to make any negative remarks over the nation.

Dr Atiur Rahman, eminent economist and former governor of Bangladesh Bank, told Bangladesh Post that we were doing very well to reduce poverty, but in the pandemic time, we suddenly stopped.

We again came back strongly to reduce poverty. I think, there are many reasons as Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in reducing poverty after Independence, he mentioned.

The government has taken a number of initiatives to reduce poverty including some special projects for rural people especially women, he added.

Atiur said the government has implemented many projects including women empowerment, rural employments and women education which had significantly played a vital role in reducing poverty.

Anyway, we can reduce poverty further if we take advantage of demographic dividend as the country has more youth population, he added.

If we create them as entrepreneurs then we can remove poverty largely because  they are mostly unemployed, he said.

 government should extend more support to people living in char, haor coastal and other indigent areas to further reduce poverty, Rahman said.

According to the Bureau of Statistics, Bangladesh was the second poorest country in the world after  its independence in 1971. 

By improving the situation, Bangladesh ranked 64th in 2016. The situation has further improved in the following years. 

There has been no famine in Bangladesh since 1984. Between 1991 and 2010, more than two crore people were lifted out of the morass of poverty.

While many countries in the world were in a negative trend in GDP growth due to the pandemic, the 5.24 percent growth of Bangladesh is also surprising to many.

The government expects 8.20 percent GDP growth in the current fiscal year 2020-21 after overcoming the impact of the corona. In 1972, the average per capita income of the people of Bangladesh was only $129.

At the end of the outgoing 2019-20 fiscal year, the average annual per capita income exceeded $2,000 to stand at $2,064.

In other words, the per capita income of the people of the country has increased almost 16 times in about 50 years.

 Bangladesh has acquired the capacity to build the Padma Bridge, a project worth more than Tk 30,000 crore, with its own funds.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, in almost 50 years, the expected trade has also been achieved.

In 1971, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Bangladesh was Tk 800.75 crore. At present, the size of GDP is Tk 31,71,800 crore.

On the other hand, Bangladesh's progress in foreign exchange reserves is also enviable. The country’s forex reserves crossed $44 billion for the first time to stand at $44.03 billion in the last month.

Dr Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Study (BIDS), said, “Poverty has decreased by 30 percent in the first 30 years since independence. In the next 20 years, it has decreased by another 20 points.”

Since 2000, the poverty alleviation program has improved in terms of quality, she mentioned. 

This is because our per capita income has increased, she said adding that, poor people have risen above the poverty line, she said.