Posts Tagged ‘Bangladesh’

Climate Change in Bangladesh – BBC Photos

7 December, 2008

Bangladesh is one of the countries that will be worst affected by climate change. Rising sea and coastal water levels and more frequent storms threaten this low-lying country. Adapting Bangladesh to climate change is urgent – especially to prevent the reversal of recent progress in poverty reduction there.

An excellent set of pictures on the theme of climate change in Bangladesh can be seen at the BBC here.

BWPI will be undertaking with BRAC a new research programme on climate change and its implications for poverty in Bangladesh. Watch this space over the coming months. In the meantime check out the BWPI and CPRC working paper series for more on Bangladesh.

Talk the talk – but not walk the walk

1 December, 2008

That’s the way Larry Elliott in The Guardian sums up the donors lack of urgency in meeting the MDGs. Commenting on the just released UNESCO Education for All report, he writes:

“… donor countries can talk the talk but not walk the walk. According to the Unesco study, the aid required for even the most basic primary education provision in poor countries is US$11 bn (£7.2bn) a year. In 2006, spending amounted to around $4bn, leaving a funding gap of $7bn. To put that figure into context, it is around 10% of what Britain spent this autumn recapitalising the banking system”.

Maybe they will walk the walk at the UN Financing for Development summit now underway in Doha. But I wouldn’t hold your breath. “When financial systems fail, the consequences are highly visible and governments act,” concluded UNESCO’s Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura. He added “When education systems fail the consequences are less visible, but no less real”.

I would add that education is the only investment you can be sure of getting at least some return on – provided it’s of good quality and children complete a minimum of 4 years primary education. Well-educated people earn more in the labour market, and find it easier to absorb new technologies and methods when they run micro-enterprises and farms. Education is a means to break the inter-generational transmission of chronic poverty (see this CPRC study for Bangladesh).

And even if it didn’t raise income much – which might be the case in economies that are growing only slowly – it certainly improves health status, especially of children, when mothers are educated. Educated mothers are 50% more likely to immunize their children than mothers with no schooling (go here). Gender inequality in education has high costs for both the family and society (see this IFPRI study).

So the chronic underfunding of education reminds me of that old quotation: if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

Parks for the Poor

11 November, 2008

Yes, having some greenery around you can improve your chances in life. A new study in the Lancet finds that living near parks or woodland improves life expectancy and health, regardless of income class. People living in poorer areas are more likely to die earlier and to suffer more ill-health than the UK average. This income-related inequality in health is less pronounced in populations with greater exposure to green space, according to the study by Richard Mitchell and Frank Popham from the universities of Glasgow and St Andrews (see this BBC report).

Victorian Britain saw great efforts to bring green space to the poor. The first children’s playground was created in a Manchester park in 1859. Many of Britain’s inner city parks went into decline from the mid-twentieth century, and their regeneration began in earnest in the late 1980s. Manchester’s St Michael’s Flags and Angel Meadow Park is an example. The area became notorious in the 19th century for the mass burial of the poor whose families could not afford a proper funeral.

The charity GreenSpace is now working to improve parks and green access in the UK. We also need more efforts in the mega cities of the developing world. On a recent trip to Dhaka I was struck by the lack of accessible greenery. Much appears to have been illegally built over – including one green space now occupied by a truly hideous ‘pleasure park’ which charges for admission.

Green space is also exceptionally important to managing the impact of climate change on urban areas, a theme in Manchester University’s research on sustainable cities (check out John Handley in the School of Environment and Development). So get planting.

It’s Called the Girl Effect

18 September, 2008

CARE has a neat video on the huge impact of educating girls: “It’s called the girl effect”. Indeed it could be an investment with one of the largest returns — for both the individual and their society.

Larry Summers found that  on average wages increase by more than 10% to 20% for each additional year of schooling (with the returns being especially high in Africa and South Asia, where literacy is lower: go here). He calculated that there was a much higher return to society from investing in the human capital of girls than in such ‘hard’ infrastructure as electric power plants. And then there are the positive effects on infant mortality, maternal mortality, and the position of women in their societies. Summers did his calculations back in the early 1990s, and subsequent research has continued to confirm the substantial benefits of girls’ education.

For further work in this area go to the BWPI working paper series. Farhad Hossain and Tonya Knight discuss the use of micro-credit for education in Bangladesh in ‘Financing the Poor: Can microcredit make a difference?’. The Grameen bank provides education loans (as well as scholarships for its clients). Increased female education has contributed to improving their social status over the last three decades: this is evident in the number of women who now have jobs in banking and other service sectors in Bangladesh.

Also check out the work of Ruth Levine and Nancy Birdsall at CGD. A good site for advocacy and research, especially on what the IMF and World Bank are up to, is Gender Action.

Gateway to Microfinance

17 September, 2008

If you have never visited the microfinance gateway, visit it here. It has the latest news in the microfinance area. Recent headlines include:

  • African Union urges politicians to stay away from microfinance (i.e. don’t engage in political meddling)
  • Record Bank expansion in Kenya ( the number of Kenyans with bank and savings accounts tripled last year, from 3.3 million to 10.1 million)
  • The Asian Development Bank has set a new poverty line (the new estimates show a fall in poverty across the region).

There is also an interview with Fazle Abed, founder and chair of BRAC. He describes BRAC’s approach as not just ‘microfinance-plus’, but ‘microfinance multiplied’. Abed sums up this approach as:

“At the heart of BRAC’s approach to development is organizing the poor. Organizing the poor into microfinance groups builds community and enables them to address the constraints they face. BRAC’s “multiplied” approach leverages the power within these groups to develop a sustainable, social entrepreneurial approach to deliver essential services to the poor. BRAC helps the group build essential linkages that integrate members into the society and market while ensuring they receive fair treatment, prices and practices”.

The micro-financiers amongst you should also check out the latest BWPI working papers, including Farhad Hossain and Tonya Knight on ‘Financing the Poor: Can Microcredit Make a Difference’, which takes an in depth look at Bangladesh. We have papers on microfinance in Barbados and India, as well.

Add another 400 Million People to the Global Poverty Numbers

29 August, 2008

The World Bank has just upped its estimate for global poverty (go here). The Bank now estimates that 1.4 billion people in developing countries — one in four of the developing world’s population — were living on less than US$1.25 a day in 2005. The previous estimate was 985 million — the “bottom billion” (this was based on an international poverty line of $1 a day). The full paper by Shaohua Chen and Martin Ravallion is here.

What all this means is that poverty has been higher from 1981 to 2005 (the period covered by the Bank’s research). Poverty in 1981 is now estimated to have been 1.9 billion people (one in two of the developing world’s population at the time).

So why has the Bank changed its numbers? Mainly because the cost-of-living in the developing world is higher than previously estimated. The International Comparison Project (ICP) has been collecting price data for years, and has released new estimates. This led the Bank to recalculate its poverty numbers. Previously 1993 cost-of-living data was the latest available and was used to generate the 985 million number.

Comparing the prices of goods and services across countries is tricky. Using current exchange rates is unsatisfactory — because currencies move relative to each other for all kinds of reasons. Hence the ICP calculates ‘purchasing power parities’ (PPPs). So the release of new PPPs led to the revised poverty estimates. However, Sanjay Reddy reckons the Bank’s poverty estimates are still too low (go here for his critique). As Duncan Green says: “Pity the Poor Number Crunchers”.

All this is before the recent run-up in food prices which is driving many into chronic poverty. The Bank is taking urgent action in Bangladesh. But expect many more people to join the world’s poor by the end of the year.

Food Insecurity in Bangladesh: the Other Crisis

22 November, 2007

by David Hulme

Global attention on Bangladesh is focused on the crisis created by the November 15th cyclone. This has caused horrific suffering, but the country also faces a more insidious and slowly unfolding crisis. Below is a note that a colleague in Bangladesh has emailed me. As the country is under a caretaker administration, backed by the military, s/he cannot reveal their identity. The recent increases in global food prices are clearly already putting enormous pressure on poor people’s incomes around the world – but, is Bangladesh really facing a ‘near famine’. Let me know what you think.

The Impending Food Crisis in Bangladesh

Food prices in Bangladesh are galloping by the day, and essential commodities, such as rice, wheat flour, cooking oil, onion and lentil are now well beyond the reach of the common man. It was not that prices were downward during the five-year period of the last elected government, but these have been continuously creating all time high records during the last one year, that is after a civilian caretaker government, armed with emergency provisions, backed by the armed forces and enjoying the blessings of the international development partners, took over in Bangladesh. Indeed, with various reforms, including a crackdown on corruption, it was widely expected that economic development would further pick up, and there would be an accelerated reduction of poverty in Bangladesh. Unfortunately, the records show an unmistakable downturn in the economy with dwindling investments, both internal and external. In fact, Mr. Forrest Cookson, an American free-lance consultant living in Bangladesh, has recently commented that this year, the GDP growth rate in Bangladesh may be in the negative. Compare it with the 6 percent growth rates of recent years.

So, the question to ask is ‘what happened during the last one year’. It seems that the poor economic mismanagement under the caretaker government started with indiscriminate raids on the godowns (Wharehouses) of large food dealers and importers on the pretext of cracking down on food adulteration. This is one of the usual gimmicks of Martial Law/Semi-Martial Law governments in their initial phase to win popularity and pressure the private sector into submission. Adulteration of food is certainly a problem in Bangladesh, and action against it was progressing quite impressively during the rule of the last elected government. However, the brutal and thoughtless manner in which it was operationalised by the caretaker government had a disastrous impact. Many food importers and food merchants stopped importing and distributing food. This was despite the amendments and inducements introduced later and solemn promises made by the high-ups not to harass them in the future.

Second, the interim government has dragged its feet on importing food grains for at least six to nine months, given the slow and complicated policy-making and implementation mechanism in place in Bangladesh and despite the emergency provisions. In countries like Bangladesh suffering from food insecurity, it is important (more…)


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