Report: 35m Bangladeshis still live below poverty line

Regular monitoring of progress emphasized in recent Poverty Watch Report 2022 to assess actual poverty line

After Bangladesh's independence in 1971, 80% of its people initially lived below the poverty line, but now that percentage has reached 20%. 

However, the actual number of poor people has not decreased in this period, considering the percentage, a report revealed on Saturday. 

Still, 35 million people in Bangladesh live below the poverty line - a fact that came out in the Bangladesh Poverty Watch Report 2022.

During the launching program of the report, experts and economists said that 35 million people remained poor since 1990 despite the poverty rate halving in the last three decades.

They also urged the government to take and implement policies required for decentralization to uplift marginalized people above the poverty line, ensuring inclusive growth.

The report was jointly compiled by the Institute for Inclusive Finance and Development (InM) and the Centre for Inclusive Development Dialogue (CIDD).

Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of InM and Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), in his opening remarks said: “Income-based poverty measurement will not eliminate the actual poverty. We have to find out about multidimensional poverty.”

Atiur Rahmnan, former governor of Bangladesh Bank, said that: “The economy is facing some challenges regarding geopolitical tension, energy shortage and supply chain disruption, and the government should take steps considering these challenges.”

Mustafa K Mujeri, chairman of the CIDD, said: “It's true that poverty is in constant decline. The government has taken initiatives to solve this problem. But poverty is not only measured by ‘lack of income', rather it includes the shortage of choice, opportunity and lack of being heard.”

Prof Salma Akhter, trustee of CIDD, in her keynote presentation said that: “About 94% of the Garo males work as day labourers while the remaining are engaged with informal sectors.”

All members of the community consider themselves poor throughout the year as men earn Tk300 a day, while women only Tk100.

Around 60,000 people from the Munda community face shortage of food for three to four months every year.

The daily income of the Mal Paharia community varies from Tk100 to Tk200.

About 92% of 129,000 Santals live below the poverty line.

Most women and children in these groups face additional marginalization, and rights violations, and have fewer opportunities to access education, health, economic opportunities, protection and justice, Prof Salma added.

She further said the legal, administrative and other social institutions do not usually work equally to protect the rights of ethnic minorities and transgenders. 

Thus, their voices remain mostly unheard as the marginalized communities in Bangladesh are powerless and less organized than other citizens in claiming their civil rights.

The report offered several key activities to accelerate their social integration.

The key will be to integrate these policies into the government's broader inclusive development strategies, which address cross-cutting and national-level issues such as strengthening inclusive growth, ensuring financial inclusion of the marginalized, reducing income and social inequality, accessing quality education, health, nutrition, and other basic services, adopting appropriate macroeconomic policy, addressing the marginal groups or regions, and implementing initiatives at the local level.