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Population boom spoils Bangladesh's gains of poverty cut: Analysts

Publication Date : 06-08-2012


A population boom erodes Bangladesh's gains in poverty reduction as the number of people suffering from a lack of food is on the rise.

Still more than 50 million people in Bangladesh suffer from poverty and hunger, although the country has boosted food production.

Positions of many living just above the poverty line are not secure.

"They might drop below the poverty line due to crop failures or natural disasters, which are increasing in both frequency and intensity," said Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF).

His concern came at a session of an international conference on "people's empowerment and development" at a hotel in Bangladesh capital, Dhaka. Some 80 delegates from 62 countries attended the discussion hosted by the foreign affairs ministry.

Food and Disaster Management Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque and US Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan W. Mozena also spoke in the session chaired by Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Belgium to the UN Jan Kamiel Frank Grauls.

The discussants linked poverty with uneven distribution of land and a lack of access to productive assets and income.

Other factors behind the rising hunger are neglect of agriculture by governments and international agencies, global economic crisis, high food prices and negative impacts of climate change.

"Hungry people do not have sufficient land to grow their own food by themselves or sufficient income to purchase enough food," said Ahmad.

He said Bangladesh has made noteworthy progress in various social and economic indicators, including a cut in poverty by 25.1 percentage points to 31.5 per cent in 2010. Globally, poverty rate also declined. But the number of hungry people soared to 925 million in 2010 from 780 million in 1995-97, although food production increased, he said.

World agriculture produces 17 per cent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 per cent population increase, said Food Minister Razzaque.

He said the number of hungry people in Bangladesh has not reduced to that extent despite a falling rate of poverty.

"It is mainly because of population growth," he said.

He said the government has placed poverty reduction and cutting inequality at the forefront of its development strategy.

Citing the Sixth Five-Year Plan and the associated Perspective Plan 2010-2021, he said these plans have set solid development targets by the end of 2021.

"The growth-employment-poverty reduction linkage will be ensured by focusing on labour intensive urban and rural industries including agro-processing," he said.

Research and development in agriculture will be revitalised to develop stress tolerant crop and non-crop varieties. Agriculture and rural non-farm sector will be pursued as engines of pro-poor growth, he said.

The PKSF chairman also said the current definition of poverty is not enough and it needs to be broadened based on the concept of ensuring dignity of each human through empowerment.

"Poverty definition needs to be reoriented," he said, "We have to have the goal of human dignity and freedom. Human beings should be freed from all needs. That is why, they have to be empowered."

US Ambassador Mozena said hunger and poverty manifest in various ways such as child malnutrition and stunting. Over 40 per cent of children in Bangladesh are stunted, he said, adding that it is destructive to physical and mental growth.

Noting rising agriculture production, Mozena said Bangladesh can achieve food sufficiency in a decade.


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