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One of the most important achievements in this regard is that the private sector has taken the responsibility of a major part of digitization and availed the opportunity of digitization and automation of social and manufacturing activities. Government needs to ensure ethical business environment in the ICT sector.
According to recent assessments Bangladesh is on track for SDG target and is able to eliminate poverty by 2030. The country has achieved considerable progress in poverty reduction during last decade. According to 2016 HIES, people below the upper poverty line (UPL) in 2016 accounted for 24.3 percent against 31.5 percent in 2010. Compared to an annual 1 percentage point poverty decrease during the 90s this is a significant achievement.
Notably, globally the rate of poverty reduction increased in the new millennium. In 1820 around 81 percent of the population in the world lived in extreme poverty which increased to 93 percent in 1850. In 1970 the ratio accounted for 60 percent and in 1990 it was 37 percent. Currently 9.6 percent of world's population lives in extreme poverty. This ratio is 9.3 percent in Bangladesh, slightly less than the world average.
According to the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development the poverty escape rate in Bangladesh is 7.1 percent against a targeted rate of 1.9 percent. With this rate Bangladesh will be able to eliminate poverty envisaged in the SDG by 2030. Complete elimination of poverty will contribute to elevation of living standards of the people. However, for ensuring more equitable relationships a different set of policy measures are needed that are related to bringing certain segments of the population to the mainstream developmental process and thereby ensuring their greater income and employment opportunities.
Table 13: Global extreme poverty rate
Source: World Bank.
Achievements in poverty reduction need to be sustained in forthcoming years. Developmental achievements are those that benefit the people in a sustained manner. From this perspective the issue of equity and justice are important for sustained human development, which is the ultimate objective of poverty elimination and development as a whole. Economic growth coupled with proper distribution and re-distribution of national wealth and income, ensured social equity and justice for all that creates environment for people's freedom of choice matter more than any other aspect of development. Growth is an essential but not sufficient pre-requisite for development.
Bangladesh's development encompasses social benefits as well, which has enhanced Bangladesh's position in the UN HDR. Despite lower per capita income than many other countries Bangladesh is in the group of Medium Human Development countries according to HDI value that has increased from 0.468 in 2000 to 0.579 in 2015 (UN HDR 2017). Bangladesh ranked 139 in HDI value in 2015 compared to 143 in the previous year.
Table 14: Bangladesh HDI value by year
Unlike conventional development measurements based solely on economic growth, the United Nations Human Development Index published annually is a compound scale of measurement based on economic and social developmental indicators. The three component parts of the value are health, knowledge and income expressed in life expectancy, education and per capita income of the people of respective countries. This ambitious attempt to reflect the exact socio-economic condition of a nation is based on modern definitions of development that provide utmost importance to social indicators in addition to pure growth statistics. Elements of governance, equity, justice, human development are integral parts of the measurement indicators and tools.
The progress in human development indicators that the country has achieved and thereby entered in the group of country with medium human development per UNHDI is a result of government's successful intervention in social sectors and greater participation of the private sector in the developmental process. Further progress and the pace of that will certainly depend on the intensity of private sector participation in developmental process. Given such reality it is a great challenge for the policy makers to facilitate private sector activities through free market competition based on legal and ethical business. Later is an essential component of materialization of people's rights in broader sense.
Poverty and inequality persist together. Elimination of poverty will not eliminate inequality in a capitalistic society due to understandable reasons. In the case of Bangladesh or any other 'Third World' country, absolute poverty will persist for long time. The policy should take into active consideration the issue of identification of ways to minimize income and societal inequalities. Regional inequalities continue to remains as one of the major bottlenecks against all-inclusive development in Bangladesh. According to 2016 HIES some of the North western districts of the country such as Dinajpur and Kurigram have 64 to 71 percent poverty incidents. This indicator ranges between 42 and 63 percent in Bandarban, Magura, Kishoreganj, Khagrachhari, Jamalpur, Gaibandha, Rangpur and Lalmonirhat.
Bangladesh experiences moderate income inequality measured in terms of Gini Index. The 2016 Gini Coefficient stood at 32.4 compared to 32.1 in 2010 and 33.5 in 2005. In 1995 and 2000 the corresponding figures were 32.9 and 33.4. Thus for the last two decades or so this coefficient remained between 32 and 34 percent, which is a reasonable standard for a growing economy. Global experiences show that many developing economies experience very high income inequality. The Gini indices in Honduras accounted for 50 percent in 2016, while in Argentina and Costa Rica the indices recorded 42.4 and 48.7 percent, respectively. In South Asia the 2016 Gini Coefficient was around 40 percent in Srilanka, 39 percent in Bhutan and 35 percent in India. As we know this index shows the extent of deviation of income distribution and in many cases consumption expenditure from perfect distribution.
Table15: Bangladesh Gini Index
Source: i) BBS; ii) World Data Atlas; iii) World Bank
Despite moderate income equality/inequality situation in Bangladesh in the regional and global context in general, further income and expenditure analysis unveil certain interesting trends that may reflect certain divergences from the superficially articulated situation. According to 2016 statistics the lowest income group of 10 percent possesses only 3.7 percent of the income share against 26.8 percent by the highest 10 percent income group. More than 41.4 percent of the income belongs to the highest 20 percent of Bangladesh's population. Poverty headcount ratio at USD 2 (PPP) per day accounts for 56.8 percent, while poverty gap at USD 2 per day (PPP) remains at around 17 percent. The poverty gap at USD 1.25 a day (PPP) however has reduced substantially and accounts for 2.7 percent.
Development in Bangladesh context is a matter of simultaneous poverty elimination. The poverty reduction strategies justly focus on the vulnerable groups. However the results may not be satisfactory due to various factors, including implementation deficiencies, methodological flaws, resource constraints, and so on. These result in existence of good number of poor in certain pockets, especially in the char areas of North -western Bangladesh, as mentioned earlier. The implication is that, despite successful poverty alleviation achievements on an average, the North-western and hilly districts of the country are yet to be escalated to the mainstream development process. Research findings show that positive correlation between poverty and natural disasters due to the absence of adequate coping strategies continue to remain as one of the major bottlenecks against successful poverty alleviation in these districts.
Health and child and maternal mortality rates
One of the major indicators of development is increased average longevity of life. Current life expectancy in Bangladesh stands at an average of 72.22 years compared to 45.83 years in 1960. The women's life expectancy is around 74 years. Simultaneously the child and maternal mortality rates have decreased considerably surpassing most South Asian countries, including Pakistan and India. During last 25 years Bangladesh recorded 73 percent decline in infant mortality rate. In 1975 Bangladesh's maternal mortality rate was one of the highest in the world: 600 per 100,000 live births, which has declined to 176 in 2015 (Index Mundi 2017). The health services network has reached the doorsteps of the people. With increased income the people can afford to enjoy more health facilities in the private sector. The government clinics including the community clinics are instrumental to some extent in providing better health services compared to the previous times. However, the taxpayers are yet to receive full benefit of the money they spend in the health sector due to coordinated corruption in this sector. There are resource leakages in the government hospitals that include leakages of medicines, food and instruments in an organized manner through syndicates formed and promoted by the bureaucracy in the health sector.
Agriculture and food security
If we analyze Bangladesh's development scenario for last decade or so we must agree that the country is proceeding towards balanced developmental approach. Once overwhelmingly agrarian economy transformed into a mix of almost logical distribution of the three major sectors: agriculture, industry and service in GDP composition.
The agriculture sector share in GDP has reduced from 62 percent in 1951-60 to 14.2 in 2017 due to increased contribution of other sectors. Corresponding figures for industry and service sectors are shown in the Table. The absolute volume of production and the level of productivity in agriculture have reached unprecedented level. Contd on page 32