Bangladesh’s Growth & Challenges with Data

Ayago Wambile, Sailesh Tiwari & Claudia Berg :
We have all heard the adage: what gets measured, gets done. Data is at the heart of economic development and without it, policymakers would be effectively flying blind. To be useful though, data must be reliable and accessible for use , for example in monitoring implementation of the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) 8th 5-Year Development Plan (8FYP) that emphasizes bottom-up development strategy to address subnational disparities and rebalancing the urbanization process, or the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
A need for numbers with spatial context
Before the pandemic, Bangladesh was continuing to reduce poverty – thanks to strong growth in all sectors of the economy – even though the pace of reduction slowed in the last decade. However, Covid-19 has reversed these gains. As described in the Macro Poverty Outlook, April 13, 2022, poverty is projected to have increased in FY20 with a marginal reduction in FY21 and FY22, and the labor market greatly impacted with some longer-term implications expected.
Informing the next development phase for Bangladesh as it graduates to a middle-income country requires building an evidence base. There is a need for a more nuanced understanding of the opportunities and constraints for income growth and poverty reduction across the country. Equity and spatial development considerations are gaining relevance in Bangladesh, given the re-emergence of an East-West divide, stagnation of urban poverty, and continued relevance of connectivity challenges.
Recent analytical work, including the latest Bangladesh Poverty Assessment: Facing Old and New Frontiers in Poverty Reduction and the Bangladesh Systematic Country Diagnostic, 2021 Update has dealt with trends and drivers of poverty across rural and urban areas, highlighting that poverty reduction has been uneven across regions. These highlight the need to bring the spatial and sub-national level lens to country’s economic growth pattern, first to understand the main constraints for spatial equity in light of the observed increased welfare disparities and the differential access to jobs and opportunities across the country, and second to develop new solutions for reducing poverty and inequality and to inform the Jobs and Economic Transformation (JET) agenda in Bangladesh. Thus, the database fill important gaps in support of better sub-national analysis and policymaking.
What is Bangladesh Spatial database?
To broaden access to a rich set of subnational and spatial statistics and to complement the work of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) by producing quality statistics for policy makers and the public, the World Bank produced a Spatial Database with sub-national or geographic information. This effort was further supported through the National Strategy for Development of Statistics (NSDS) Implementation Support Project which aims to improve the capacity of BBS to produce quality data and make them more accessible in a timely manner. The Bangladesh spatial database is a compilation of socioeconomic district (zila)-level indicators obtained from household surveys, population censuses, economic censuses, administrative data and government reports (Sources) and provided in one place for download.
Database components
The Database has three components and organized into:
1. Zila-level data and visualization. Organized around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this database contains indicators for each of Bangladesh’s 64 zilas (districts), covering a range of topics including poverty, nutrition, fertility, health, access to services, and more.
Click here to see the zila-level database with a detailed Glossary.
2. Cox’s Bazar Panel Survey (CBPS) is a representative survey of the post-2017 population of displaced Rohingya and households in host communities residing in Cox’s Bazar zila (district) of Bangladesh.
The baseline was conducted in 2019 and is stratified by high and low-exposure host areas, and camps for the displaced Rohingya population. The baseline data includes a total of 160 indicators organized by theme: Demographics, Assets, Water and Sanitation-Hygiene, Education, and Labor. Of these, 69 are at the household level by strata and 91 are at the individual level, disaggregated by strata and gender.
The baseline indicators are displayed in Interactive Dashboards, presenting a profile of residents in the Camp, Host, and comparing the two communities. The underlying micro, metadata, household and individual questionnaires, and related survey instruments are available. With the arrival of Covid-19, the baseline survey was followed by a series of high-frequency phone surveys with three rounds completed as of June 2021. The findings are detailed in CBPS Briefs.
3. Covid-19 Urban Monitoring Survey in poor areas of Dhaka and Chittagong database holds indicators of poor urban areas of Dhaka and Chittagong that includes baseline data collected through the DIGNITY survey in 2018 and the CITY survey in 2019. Indicators include demographics, education, employment, housing, migration, time management, and others. Data can be explored through an interactive Dashboard, allowing for comparisons between Dhaka and Chittagong, between slum and non-slum areas within each city.
A multi-topic phone survey was implemented in the samples, focusing on socio-economic outcomes, health, and safe practices.
What’s Next?
The Bangladesh Spatial Database is in its infancy. Over time it will continue to expand as more data becomes available. Making continued improvements to the overall user experience is a priority. To ensure sustainability in the long run, discussions are under way for BBS to take over the management and upkeep of the database.

(Ayago Wambile is World Bank Senior Economist, , Sailesh Tiwari is World Bank Senior Economist and Claudia Berg is Consultant, Development Research Group, World Bank)

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