BD well-equipped to attain zero extreme poverty within a short time
Former Governor of Bangladesh Bank Dr Atiur Rahman observed that recent experience of Bangladesh has proven that it is possible to have more growth with more equality."We also have the national strategies and resources in place to sustain this pattern of growth via equality as the country evolves into a middle income one."
He was speaking at the session on extreme poverty at Hotel Radisson Blu in Chittagong organized by Asian University of Women on Friday.
The keynote presentation on measurement of poverty was made by Dr Ismail Serageldin, former Vice-President of the World Bank. Dr Serageldin emphasized on social and cultural dimensions of poverty in addition to lack of income.
Dr Rahman pointed out that significant reduction of extreme poverty has been one of the most significant achievements of Bangladesh as an economy. While this achievement is praiseworthy, he added- we still have 12.9 percent of the population (roughly 20 million) living below the lower poverty line.
Hence, the government has placed eradication of extreme poverty as a 'cardinal principle' for the strategies laid out in the 7th Five Year Plan and aims to reduce extreme poverty by 4 percentage points (to below 9 percent) by 2021. Dr. Rahman identified dealing with urban extreme poverty, creating employment for the youthful workforce, and efficient implementation of social protection interventions as the key challenges on the way of attaining 'zero extreme poverty'.
He opined that a paradigm shift from reliance upon mostly donor-supported, discrete development projects towards more domestically-supported, mainstreamed policy across a range of sectoral levers is the key to success.
He also pointed out key areas to be focused to address extreme poverty in Bangladesh. He inferred that efficient and prudent public expenditure to support the extreme poor households is of critical importance. He referred to studies conducted as background research work in preparing the 7th Five Year Plan infer that on an average USD 500 one-off investment per extreme poor household can result in that household graduating from extreme poverty.
And this is doable, he argued. He also pointed out that financial inclusion can ensure that those graduating out of extreme poverty do not fall back due to socio-economic shocks as demonstrated in Bangladesh. Mobile Financial Services and pro-poor banking are some examples of this, he said.
Finally, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) needs to be expanded significantly to create adequate employment and take maximum advantage of the youthful workforce of Bangladesh. Dr Rahman said that efficient application of latest technology is a critical pre-requisite for extreme poverty reduction, and we have access to latest technology ranging from social media to space satellite.
He concluded stating that it is high time for a concerted effort by all parties, both public and private, to completely eradicate extreme poverty from Bangladesh, because the government appears to be committed to 'leave no one behind' and the market conditions are also in favor, and the private sector has also matured enough to provide support.