Vol. 5 Num 897 Tue. December 05, 2006  
Front Page

Blind eye to urban poor to spell social disaster
Conference on the poor told

Experts and development activists in a conference yesterday warned of a social disaster in the coming decades if the issue of development programmes for the urban poor were not addressed.

Speakers at the conference also highlighted the often-ignored incapability of the poor to use money effectively and the rich people's power to prevent pro-poor taxation policies.

They were speaking on the second day of a three-day conference on: "What works for the poorest?" The conference was organised by Brac at its headquarters in Dhaka in collaboration with the Brooks World Poverty Institute and the Chronic Poverty Research Centre at the University of Manchester.

Speaking at the first plenary session, Qaiser Khan, acting country director of World Bank, warned of a social disaster if the government and development agencies did not address the growing urban poverty rate.

"The government does not address urban poverty as it fears more people will migrate to the cities if it provided social protection to the urban poor," Khan explained at the session titled "Social protection and the poorest."

Noting that most of the development projects are focused on rural areas, Khan stressed the need for special development programmes for the urban poor in order to mitigate any possible disaster in the future.

He stated the problems would be exacerbated as 50 percent of the Bangladeshi population would be living in urban areas in the next 20 to 30 years.

In another plenary session, Tony Addison of the Brooks World Poverty Institute and the Chronic Poverty Research Centre at the University of Manchester observed that there is a global pattern of the wealthy people using their power to influence the political process and block pro-poor tax reforms. He urged for the implementation of pro-poor tax reforms which involves increasing the taxation rate with the corresponding rise of their income.

Similarly, the wealthy use their political influence to prevent public spending on services that benefit the poor, such as education, Addison said.

Peter Chaudhry of Oxfam, in another session, outlined how case studies in Vietnam suggested that the poor can and do use their income effectively when given the chance and they themselves can make choices on their livelihood priorities.

There were eight sessions at the conference yesterday discussing on the development activist's experiences with the landless poor, incorporation of technological advancements with development, private and public partnerships, and culture and poverty.

The Daily Star is a media partner of the conference.