The Financial Express

Prevailing over poverty

Published: September 04, 2019 21:29:43 | Updated: September 06, 2019 22:06:16

Prevailing over poverty

That the rate of poverty in the country fell quite sharply over the past few years is indeed a cause for rejoicing. But still about a quarter -- 21.8 per cent to be precise -- of the population was poor in 2018. Sure enough, no country feels at ease with even a small number of its poor citizens. Not every member of society can be affluent but at least no one should remain famished. This is the least that societies and governments everywhere want. Bangladesh's pace of poverty reduction is quite appreciable, particularly when the last year's latest estimate of the extreme poor is taken into account. The drop in extreme poverty has been from 18 per cent to 11.3 per cent. If the trend holds this year and for another two to three years, extreme poverty should be a thing of the past.

What is satisfying is that the reduction of poverty has defied to a large extent the maldistribution of wealth not only in this country but across the globe. Ninety per cent of the global population has at its disposal only 10 per cent of the world's resources and conversely the rest 10 per cent of the population has at its disposal 90 per cent of the global wealth. The pattern of wealth distribution is not different here as well. But the trickle-down benefit of wealth creation has somehow been bringing at least a significant proportion of people out of the poverty trap. One may call it a miracle, if one likes. But the fact is that the government's food safety net has helped the poor to initiate drives for some kind of employment. People no longer want to remain idle and the advancement in communication, thanks to gadgets like cell phones, has opened up opportunities not earlier available before them.

Yet not all is rosy for the country's future although it is well on course of achieving the middle-income status by 2030. The threat to the country's rapid prosperity comes from what has been dubbed 'climate shocks'. There is no doubt that the people of Bangladesh have earned plaudits for their resilience against overwhelming odds in terms of natural disasters. Very few peoples in the world have suffered such cataclysmic disasters and so often and yet risen up to gradually getting into the groove. But climate change has been bringing in challenges hitherto unknown.

It is axiomatic that the poor are the most vulnerable in the face of natural convulsions of unprecedented order. The country's gain in terms of poverty reduction may suffer if the extent of vulnerability goes up on account of global warming. For example, the wet bulb temperature which is predicted to impact the tropical countries most will not allow farmers to work in crop fields during the high summer. This refers to a shift to an alternative -perhaps mechanised-mode of agriculture. Similarly, there may be a paradigm shift in livelihoods for the poor. So, the need is to prepare them well in advance in order for them to adapt to the changing situation.

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