A poverty map of Bangladesh, estimating poverty at district and upazila levels, was launched yesterday with the aim to enable the government and policymakers to identify the poorer areas and allocate resources for pulling the distressed out of the curse.
“It will help us spot areas where the extent of poverty is high. The map will allow us to take programmes and policies for alleviating poverty prioritising the most vulnerable areas,” said Planning Minister AK Khandker at the launching ceremony in Dhaka.
The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and the World Bank in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) updated the poverty map, completed in early 2009.
The poverty map was prepared on the basis of the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) of 2005 and the Population Census of 2001.
The map comes as Bangladesh suffers from high-level poverty with the 2005 poverty data showing that around 40 percent or 6 crore people are poor.
Economists and various multilateral donor agencies said the number of poor people increased in the recent years due to price hike of essentials.
“Although the poverty rate came down over the years, the number of the poor remains the same as the population is increasing day by day,” said the planning minister.
“So for poverty reduction we shall also have to give attention to population growth,” he said.
Since 1990 poverty rate dropped by 17 percentage points to 40 percent in 2005. But according to analysts, the recent reduction in the national poverty rate shows uneven progress among different areas and communities as there are many areas where poverty is much extreme than the national figures suggest.
The latest poverty map will enable policymakers to recognise the geographical and regional variations and spatial inequality as well as provide guidance for effective policy interventions and programmes based on local conditions.
“Household income and expenditure survey cannot provide actual data on poverty at district and upazila levels. The map will be very helpful for the government to monitor poverty and plan strategies,” said Xian Zhu, country director of World Bank.
The WB country chief however suggested updating the map on a regular basis to evaluate the gains and inequalities created by the economic growth or the external shocks stemming from natural disaster.
Referring to poverty rate, WFP Representative in Bangladesh John Aylieff said the poverty map would be a critical input for WFP's own planning, targeting, and allocation of resources.
“Behind the map, there is statistics. And behind the statistics, there are mothers and children and many more faces,” he said.
“Let's use the map as a means for concerted actions,” he said, adding: “It's the poor hungry people to whom we are accountable.”