Published in The News Today on Sunday, 30 July 2016
Poverty eradication not possible only with GDP growth: Experts
With the country’s GDP growth has been on a good track, noted economists and experts think the government now needs to focus on removing inequalities, strengthening the social safety net and establishing good governance for sustainable and inclusive development, reports UNB. Though Bangladesh has been maintaining over 6 percent GDP growth over a decade, the common people cannot reap the full benefits of the higher growth rate due to corruption, ‘lack of good governance’, wrong policies and inequalities, they said. According to them, it is necessary to strengthen social safety net programmes, ensure economic good governance and equal distribution of resources, increase education quality, private investment, enhance institutional capacity and generate jobs so that all the sections of society can be benefited from the high GDP growth. Former caretaker government adviser Dr ABM Mirza Azizul Islam told UNB that the government should emphasise the importance of ensuring good governance and widening the social safety net for sustainable development. “Unless we can address a number of issues such as tax policy, financial sector policy, good governance and corruption, people won’t get the benefits of this high growth,” he said. Claiming that the allocation for the social safety net has declined proportionately in recent budgets, the former finance adviser said the allocation was 2.8 percent of GDP and 17 percent of the budget in 2008-2009 fiscal, which has now come down to 13 percent of the budget. Executive director of Power and Participation Research Centre Hossain Zillur Rahman said the country’s GDP growth rate is positive, but has long remained at ‘6+ trap’. He said various economic indicators demonstrate that the GDP growth is not inclusive. “Income inequality is a key indicator which shows our GDP growth is not inclusive. There’s a huge discrepancy regarding income. The net income of the people of Dhaka city is much higher than that of the entire other regions of the country.” There is also widespread educational inequality, said Zillur adding that only a small section of people is getting high quality education, while the majority people are being deprived of it. To make the GDP growth inclusive, Zillur, also a former caretaker government adviser, said, “We need to reassess our economic development strategy taking a separate approach for every sector, ensure economic good governance, strengthen institutional capacity and check corruption.
Executive director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Prof Dr Mustafizur Rahman said the high GDP growth is needed for Bangladesh, but the growth is not distributed equally always. “For the equal distribution, it needs to strengthen social safety net programmes for a short-term… the character of growth will have to be more labour-intensive and distribution-friendly,” he added. Mustafizur said education is very important for reducing inequalities. For inclusive development, he said, it is essential to ensure the access of the poor to the global service market.
Research director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) Binayak Sen said the eradication of poverty is not possible by riding on the GDP growth route alone. “We need to arrest the growing trend of income and asset inequalities to achieve the goal of zero poverty,” he said. He said the government should concentrate on the ‘stubborn’ pockets of poverty (riverbank erosion-prone areas, haor areas, and remote hilly areas in Chittagong) and chronic poor. According to the BBS statistics, income inequalities increased at 0.458 in 2010 from 0.388 in 1991-92, with a similar trend in both rural and urban areas.