Vol. 5 Num 400 Tue. July 12, 2005  

Corruption main hurdle to poverty alleviation
Saape members tell press confce

Corruption and higher defence expenditure seriously impede poverty alleviation efforts in the South Asian region, said speakers at a press conference in the city yesterday.

They said the issue of corruption in the seven South Asian countries came up as a recurrent topic of discussion at the third annual general meeting (AGM) of the South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (Saape) held in Kandy, Sri Lanka, recently.

The Saape members presented the strategies adopted at the AGM at the press conference held at the National Press Club.

The AGM and a regional workshop organised by Saape identified five major roadblocks to poverty alleviation in the region. These are lack of food security for common people, gender inequality, lack of workers' rights, arms race and absence of good governance, said Saape member Mohiuddin Ahmad."

Common people must have food security and sovereignty to choose their foods," said Rezaul Karin Chowdhury of Supra, an NGO. "It is not acceptable that the developed world will define the types of food for the poor and apply biological approach to poverty reduction."

Neo-liberal economic policy of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organisation is responsible for the increase in poverty in South Asia while the developed world is trying to deny people's food sovereignty, turning the poor countries into dumping ground of genetically modified (GM) foods, Chowdhury said.

A total of 1.4 billion people, that make up 22.2 percent of the world population, live in the seven South Asian countries -- Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, said the Saape members.

One-third of the population or 433 million people are compelled to live an ultra-poor life while 328 million people are malnourished, 205 million are deprived of safe drinking water and 614 million have no access to sanitation facility, they said.

The Saape, an alliance of civil society members, professionals and non-government organisations, was established in 2001 with an aim to build a poverty-free and just society.

Saape members former ambassador Waliur Rahman, Masroor-ul Haq, Bir Uttam, and Prof Gitiara Nasreen of Dhaka University were present at the press conference.