Rise of the rich  

Published: January 22, 2019 22:07:52 | Updated: January 24, 2019 22:08:36

Following the highest rate of increase of the ultra-rich, Bangladesh is now poised to add yet another feather to its cap. Globally, it is all set to come only third in terms of the rate of increase of the rich by 2023. It will see a rise of the rich category by 11.4 per cent by that time. The Wealth-X, a New York- and London-based ultra-high net worth intelligence and data company, has been reporting on wealth creation since 2010. In its parlance the ultra-rich are called ultra high net worth (UHNW) and the rich high net worth (HNW). People with wealth between $1.0 million and $30 million are considered (HNW) and the ultra-rich have in their possession wealth above $30 million. In both cases, the immovable assets remain outside of the purview. Between 2012 and 2018, the UNHW population grew by 17.3 per cent -highest in the world.

So, Bangladesh's gain in wealth creation is faster than the majority of the countries in the world. In the top category of wealth creation, the country's number one ranking more than belies the once basket case it was known for. Even the third position it earns for the likely production of rich people after Nigeria and Egypt will confound many financial analysts. But the Wealth-X report enjoys universal acceptability for its authentic and reliable data. So there is no doubt about the phenomenal rate of wealth creation in the country. How it is done is however a different proposition. Read against this, a World Bank (WB) report, though, can give some uneasy feeling. The WB's 'Poverty and Shared Prosperty-2018' report estimates that Bangladesh still has 24.1 million ultra-poor people and it ranks fifth on the list of the highest number of such people in the world.

True the proportion of the poor and the ultra-poor is also on the decline. Figures vary from one report to another. By 2015, there were 24.8 per cent poor and 6.5 per cent ultra-poor. But one report has it that the poverty rate fell below 9.0 per cent in 2018. These are confusing but there is at least one consolation that poverty is declining not rising. Should then the process of wealth creation be accepted as normal? Not many are likely to agree on this. If distribution of wealth creates social rifts, one cannot say all is well on the economic front.

No wonder, economists are worried about the developments. Social disparities can lead to discontent and social convulsion. It is a small country but its population size is large. Those who are accumulating wealth beyond measure are alleged to be in the unholy practice of money laundering and depositing in foreign banks. Some have their second homes in Malaysia or Canada. The process of poverty reduction will meet with reversal if a significant proportion of the country's wealth finds its way out into lands beyond. It has to be prevented and the wealth created at a fabulous rate can be put to good use by its rational investment in production. For this, the revenue earning by the state has to be commensurate with incomes the rich and the ultra-rich earn.  Apart from pulling the poor out of poverty, it will expedite the country's economic growth and development.

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