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Latest News

Bangladesh can still achieve its millennium development goal to cut poverty by half before the deadline in 2015 if the government follows right policies, ensures accountability and reaches resources to the disadvantaged people, a UN official said.

Minar Pimple, deputy director of United Nations Millennium Campaign, Asia, said Bangladesh has to identify challenges ahead and give a big push to achieve the target in the remaining six years.

The UN official spoke to the FE last week while he was in Dhaka to attend a seminar on poverty.

Mr Pimple said Bangladesh government seems very much keen to reach its MDG targets, which was set by all member nations of the United Nations in 2000 to better a host of human development indicators like health, poverty and livelihood.

To achieve the key MDG target, Bangladesh must bring down rate of poverty to 25 per cent —- down from nearly 50 per cent in 2000.

“Cutting poverty by half within 2015 is very much possible for Bangladesh despite two floods in 2007 and soaring food prices in the domestic market forced more people into the poverty trap,” he said.

“The government’s election manifesto and national budget passed in June this year also proclaim its long-term vision on poverty,” Pimple said.

The government figures show some 40 percent of Bangladesh’s 144 million people live below poverty line, with another four million joining the ranks of the poor due to soaring food prices in 2007-08.

The UN official said Bangladesh lags behind India and China when it comes to cutting poverty as per MDG guidelines. “But the country has done quite well on gender empowerment and reduction of maternity death issues.”

“If the government continues to pursue its current policies, I do not see any problem regarding Bangladesh’s successful journey towards reaching poverty reduction target. It is absolutely possible for Dhaka to achieve MDG.”

“I think the present government wants to take that challenge,” said Pimple, who has worked more than 30 years on the issues of poverty and low levels of socio-economic-political development for Asia Region.

He said narrowing the gap between the government’s political will and the ground delivery would be very crucial for achieving the target.

“The government has to reach out its programme and policies to the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in the chars (river shoals), haors (small lakes) and hill tracts. They have to be included in the social safety net programmes.”

“The government has to create accountability mechanism for proper delivery of its services.”

The India-born development activist said Bangladesh would have no control over two factors —- remittance and climate change, but it needs to be careful about these two key drivers of change.

“Remittance could go down in a big way. The government has to be careful about climate change as it would have serious impacts on food production.”

Pimple said Bangladesh must check corruption and ensure accountability to help poor come out of poverty trap. “If delivery leakages are managed, we will have a lot of positive changes.”

“Right policies and actions and adequate funding from political commitment will yield desired results by 2015.”

The UN official said there should be political consensus among parties, no matter who is in power, to deliver the necessary results.

He warned that the global community’s sudden shift towards cash-crops could lead to more hunger.

“There is a big shift towards cash-crops as they bring cash. As a result, production of basic cereals has dropped. This trend has adversely affected global food production.”

“Bangladesh has to check this trend as the country has already witnessed what can happen if you have inadequate food supply under your belt,” he said, referring to the cereal shortages in early 2008 that led to doubling of rice prices.

He said that the government’s revenue base has to be expanded, as higher revenue collection paves the way for higher spending on poverty eradication programmes.