Poverty is the main obstacle to the development of a country. Keeping that in mind, the Government of Bangladesh provides education allowance, food in exchange for work (Kabikha), elderly allowance, disability allowance, Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) program, maternity allowance, assistance to working lactating mothers, special allowance to improve the quality of life of Bede and backward communities as poverty alleviation programs. Implemented education and stipend training, assistance to cancer, kidney and liver cirrhosis patients, quality of life improvement programs for tea workers etc. But the impact of all these activities on poverty reduction in rural and urban areas is not visible. Due to the fact that the amount of allowances is totally inadequate to the current market price and standard of living and the candidate selection process is corrupt, even with many programs in the social protection sector, sustainable success in poverty alleviation programs cannot be brought.
The World Bank’s Bangladesh Poverty Assessment Report (2019) called Bangladesh’s poverty alleviation an ‘encouraging saga’. In the last decade and a half after 2000, more than two and a half crore people have moved out of the poverty line. In fact, poverty should be evaluated by considering all the deprivations (food, education, health, housing etc.) at the individual level through multidimensional poverty index and it is possible to get a clear idea about who is poor and why.
During the 8th Five Year Plan, the current government prepared to tackle multidimensional poverty by formulating multidimensional indicators and the MEP was discussed. Time has come to measure multidimensional poverty along with income-expenditure based poverty in our country. To transform from a middle-income country to a developed country, we must not limit ourselves to income-based poverty. Since poverty alleviation is essential for the implementation of SDGs, through multi-dimensional poverty alleviation we will practically try to see the overall development picture of Bangladesh. Multidimensional poverty is measured by combining several deprivations. The more deprived a country is of basic rights, the higher the rate of multidimensional poverty.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) Food and Expenditure Survey-2022, the country currently has a poverty rate of 18.7%. Very poor or poor people come to Dhaka or any big city to drive a rickshaw or do some other work. It is collecting money for their daily food. But fulfilling other social rights, including housing, education and treatment, remains a challenge for them. Thus they are exposed to a different kind of risk. There are still around 2 crore poor people in various marginal areas including Char areas and this number is not to be ignored. In the urban areas of this country, the number of people who have taken shelter by pulling polythene next to the railway line is also significant. Therefore, it can be said that even though the poverty rate has decreased in Bangladesh, the social status of the poor has not changed yet.
Again, the ‘Global 2021 Multidimensional Poverty Index’ (MPI) conducted jointly by the United Nations Development Program and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom revealed that, although Bangladesh’s success in poverty alleviation is significant, 24.1 percent of the country’s people live below the poverty line. And it is said that 24.1% or 3.92 crore people of the country are multidimensionally poor. In the survey, ‘multidimensional’ poverty refers to the overall situation of a household in terms of education, health and standard of living. There are total ten indicators in these three subjects. If a household falls short of one-third of the ten indicators, it is considered to be suffering from multidimensional poverty or a poor household. Health indicators include nutrition and infant mortality. Considerations for quality of life include improved sanitation, safe water, electricity and property ownership. And education includes school attendance rates and completion of primary education.
Among the 10 mandals of the multidimensionally poor population in Bangladesh, the school enrollment rate is 25.3 percent and the school attendance rate is 9.5 percent, which is even lower. The infant mortality rate of the poor population is 1.3 percent and the malnutrition rate is 8.7 percent. Out of this, 4.6 percent people have access to electricity and 1.4 percent people have access to safe water. It is clearly understood from the survey that all these very necessary standards are not being reflected as expected. And it would not be logical to unilaterally blame the concerned authorities and policy makers for this. Because, there is a strong reluctance and apathy towards participation and awareness activities among a significant section of the population under discussion. Due to all these reasons they may not feel comfortable to proceed spontaneously in all activities. But we have to formulate and implement policies keeping these challenges and realities in mind.
Eradication of poverty is mentioned in the first goal of the 17 sustainable development programs announced by the United Nations. There is talk of ending all forms of poverty everywhere. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a bold and groundbreaking step towards the total and absolute eradication of poverty by 2030. Sub-section 1.B.1 of the program states that the proportion of public revenue and capital expenditure of the respective sectors has been raised to ensure that women, poor and vulnerable groups are not disproportionately served.
In order to reduce the trend of poverty among women and poor people, equitable distribution of resources in all areas, ensuring spontaneous participation of youth in social and developmental activities, provision of social equality, increasing savings, agricultural development, increasing attention towards industrialization, taking initiatives for the development of cottage industry, expansion of vocational education, natural calamities. Action oriented plans can be implemented at the local level including measures to reduce the level of damage, creation of grassroots administrative structures, supervision of voluntary activities. Implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda also requires increasing access to basic rights, resources and services for people living in poverty and at risk.
the writer: Professor, Department of Political Science, Rajshahi University