Over the years, Bangladesh has been covered with the statistics and the pictures of poverty so much so that many people in both the rural and urban areas have come to accept it as an unfortunate but irreversible state of affairs. The truth, however, is that things have changed in recent years. There has been a spectacular improvement in terms of overcoming poverty and hunger. It has also made improvements in the education sector and child mortality and has ensured that more and more children, girls and boys, attend school and have access to clean water as well. All this has been noticed by the United Nations and Bangladesh has been recognised for it as well.
The 2011 MDG (Millennium Development Goal) Progress Report quotes that overall improvements in poverty and hunger have been accompanied by rising regional and social disparities including persistent pockets of extreme poverty in the country. Out of the 52 MDG targets, Bangladesh is on track on 19 of them; and 14 of them need attention (2011 data). The poverty situations varied in period of time as well as between urban and rural areas. The rate of poverty reduction shows that the trend was found higher during 2000-2005, while the reduction rate was found higher also in urban areas. The possible reason for this during 2000-2005 is due to steadiness of agricultural growth and no natural hazards. Bangladesh is well on track to achieving MDG Goal 1 (eradicate extreme poverty and hunger) with poverty coming down to 31.5 percent in 2010. Also, the average annual rate of poverty reduction has been above rate required to meet the 2015 target. The poverty gap ratio has also decreased dramatically.
Governments in Bangladesh have consistently focused on poverty improvement as one of their main policy fields. More importantly, the ‘Unstable- stability’ created by the conflict between the Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) combined with the focus on antipoverty policies has created an environment in which the private sector has been able to expand and civil society, especially NGOs, have stepped in to fulfil duties the government was unable to. Also, the stable economic growth in all sectors of GDP due to increased productivity has led to the generation of employment. The garment industry accounts for 70% of exports, plays a big role in reducing poverty. Ship building, Ship breaking and construction have also created a considerable amount of Jobs that provided the poor with employment and income opportunities. Moreover, rural development is a key factor for poverty improvement due to the size of agriculture sector.
Just like a coin has two sides, despite Bangladesh having so much to be joyous about, it did have its downside as well. There were certain challenges that Bangladesh faced. Firstly, Corruption being the primary one followed by political tyranny and Human Rights being abused are still an often reported problem. Another challenge that Bangladesh faces is poor working conditions and unequal wages. Yet another challenge that Bangladesh faces is in addressing certain pockets of poverty that are lagging far behind with respect to the national averages and where the benefits of MDGs attainment need to be specifically reached. These areas include the urban slums, the hill tracts, coastal belts and other ecologically vulnerable areas.
To conclude, it can be pointed out to Bangladesh does show unique progress in poverty improvement. Despite being confronted with many challenges, the Bangladeshis seem to have reached a position where they can proudly say that they have almost tackled the problem of poverty and hunger in their country. Factors such as economic growth and improvements in the fields of sanitation and education helped alleviate the situation. With the way Bangladesh has been working to deal with it, shows its dedication and the ability it possesses to clear out the extreme poverty in the pockets of the country.
Table 3.1: Proportion of population below national poverty line
|Year Rural Urban National|
|1990 61.20 44.90 58.80|
|1995 55.30 29.50 51.00|
|2000 52.30 35.20 48.90|
|2005 43.80 28.40 40.00|
|2007 42.30 27.60 38.66|
|2015 30.60 22.50 29.40|