Jijodamandu, a small hilltop village in Doti district in Western Nepal is a full day’s walk from the nearest motorable road. Below the village, the hillside is littered by terraced paddy fields producing rice. Surrounding many homes in the village slightly above the terraced paddy fields, there are fruits trees planted sporadically – oranges, lemons and pomegranates. When I was leaving the village after a few days stay, my host handed me a bag of oranges. Not wanting to overreach his hospitality towards me and also knowing food security is a concern for them I initially declined his offer. But he was insistent. “For the walk back down,” he said. “Fruits we have plenty of. It is rice and grains we cannot plant enough.”
The World Bank’s recent report Bangladesh: Towards Accelerated, Inclusive and Sustainable Growth—Opportunities and Challenges examines inclusiveness along three dimensions—poverty, inequality, and the distribution of economic opportunities. The findings are summarized in this post.
Economic growth in the last two decades in Bangladesh has been pro-poor. Poverty declined significantly from 58.8 percent in 1991/92 to 31.5 percent in 2010. Bangladesh succeeded in “bending the arc of poverty reduction” in the decade ending 2010, a period in which the number of poor declined by around 15 million, compared with a decline of about 2.3 million in the preceding decade. There has also been regional convergence in poverty patterns during 2005-10. Poverty reduction in the lagging Western divisions (Rajshahi, Khulna, and Barisal) was larger than in the Eastern divisions. A number of other indicators of welfare also show notable improvements between 2000 and 2010 for the general population and the poor alike.
Income distribution stabilized after deteriorating in the 1990s. While comparisons based on consumption data have been used to argue that inequality in Bangladesh is low by international standards, when income rather than HIES consumption data are used, inequality appears to be much higher. The degree of income inequality was reasonably low and stable compared to countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines during the 1970s and 1980s. But there was a sharp increase between 1991-92 and 1995-96. Gini consumption concentration ratios based on HIES 2000, 2005, and 2010 data were almost unchanged while Gini income concentration ratios increased by 3.5 percent during 2000-05 followed by 1.9 percent decrease during 2005-10. The good news is it has been a race to the top in the past decade with consumption growing for the poor and non-poor alike. However, income inequality in Bangladesh is relatively high. Among Bangladesh’s peer group of countries only Sri Lanka has a higher income Gini and Cambodia is close.
The social institution of caste and the many ways it can create exclusion amongst different groups has a generated much literature in South Asia, primarily focused on India. Caste is often incorrectly characterized as a social hierarchy inherent within Hinduism. In fact, caste is a social phenomenon that exists across groups in South Asia, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians throughout South Asia in varying degrees.
In Pakistan, research and debate on the implications of caste and poverty has been limited. While a substantial literature exists about the social structures of Pakistan, including various caste, kinship groups and tribes such as zaat (caste), biraderi/qaum (kinship groups) and qabila (tribe), development practitioners and policy makers have largely ignored the issue of caste and social exclusion in Pakistan with its links to inequality in rights, access services and representation.
Did you know that the World Bank Group actually wants to listen to the men and women of Sri Lanka and their views on Sri Lanka’s development and ensure that their voices are taken into account whenever development activities are carried out? Most of you like me (some months ago), would probably answer in the negative. Having joined the World Bank this year and having being tasked with assisting with the preparation of Sri Lanka's next Country Partnership Strategy for Sri Lanka, I have come to realize that some of my own perceptions about public involvement in World Bank activities have not been entirely accurate.
My current role in the Bank has enabled me to understand firsthand the efforts undertaken by bank staff to ensure that development activities remain sustainable. One of the ways in which this is achieved is through active engagement with as wide a group of stakeholders as possible prior to the commencement of any new project. All of us who are a part of the Bank Group strongly believe that it’s only by invoking the ownership of development among citizens that long term sustainability is achieved.
First the good news. The Indian government has agreed to sell the originally-agreed 400,000 tons of non-basmati rice to the Government of Bangladesh at a price of $430 per ton. On March 30th, the Government of Bangladesh’s Purchase Committee approved the Indian offer of procuring the 400,000 tons of rice at $430 per ton by ship.