Living in Bangladesh for the past 8 years, I have had to bear witness to disillusionment and despair that come about when people lack the means to provide a decent living for themselves, and their families. I gradually began to empathize with these people, and developed a desire to alleviate their pain. This paper contain strategic solutions to the political, legal, and environmental factors that I believe are the biggest contributors to poverty in Bangladesh.
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In the 1900s, Bangladesh’s poverty rate was edging close 90%. However, with the implementation of investor-friendly policies, privatisation of public entities, trade liberalisation and exercise of budgetary discipline in the 21st century, the South Asian nation has enjoyed remarkable economic growth and made tremendous progress in poverty alleviation in the past decades. However, despite these commendable achievements, a significant proportion of Bangladesh’s urban (7%) and rural (35%) population still lives in extreme poverty.
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The most significant cause of poverty in rural areas is increased environmental degradation due to the high rate of population growth. The reduced carrying capacity contributes to severe floods, which are responsible for losses of up to 16% in agricultural production and 90% in household property and family assets. In urban areas, unemployment poor housing and sanitation and environmental degradation are the main contributors to the extreme poverty levels.
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To eradicate poverty, long term government strategic considerations should be aimed at increasing environmental carrying capacity through environmental regulations to improve conservation. Moreover, rural and urban sanitation should be improved to reduce environmental pollution. A significant decline in the rate of environmental degradation should reduce the severity of floods, minimize soil erosion and improve agricultural productivity in rural areas. On the other hand, short term inexpensive initiatives involving: construction of floodways to divert floodwater in urban areas, building terraces on hilly terrain and planting vegetation that retains water in rural areas should also be implemented.
The government needs to take up a more proactive role in the urban unemployment crisis. Most of Bangladesh’ urban workforce is unskilled. Providing opportunities for manual labor does not guarantee that the poverty rate will decline. However, having a highly skilled and educated workforce will increase the country’s economic appeal to foreign investors, facilitate job creation and create sustainable economic growth. In the meantime, the sizeable unskilled workforce can be utilized to offset labor requirements in government-financed urban improvement projects geared towards improved housing and sanitation through the construction of; sewage pipes, water line public housing and public health facilities.
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However, all of these solutions are likely to fail in a country riddled with corruption and an unaccountable administration. According to Transparency international’s ranking index, Bangladesh is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, ranking at 143 out of 180 countries. The administration needs to enforce the Consumer Rights protection act of 2009. Consumers should have statutory rights which should enable them to seek redress for violations such as; purchase of fake or inferior quality goods and toxic cosmetics and food products. Coupled with efforts to improve accountability and reduce corruption in the business sector, enforcing consumer protection laws will ensure that the population’s hard-earned income does not go into fruitless pursuits.
Bribery, fraud, nepotism, misappropriation of public funds, excessive lobbying and irresponsible conduct from government officials, all contribute to the ineffectiveness of sectors responsible for delivering vital services such as; water, electricity, gas, education, sanitation and waste disposal, health and transport. The country’s legislation needs to change to de-cripple the anti-corruption commission. Specifically, The 2013 Amendment, which requires the commission to obtain authorization from the government before conducting due investigations or filing charges against corrupt politicians and bureaucrats should be scrapped to pave the way for transparency and accountability in the public sector.
A significant proportion of Bangladesh’s population still lives in extreme poverty. A reduced environmental carrying capacity leading to environmental degradation, unemployment, corruption and weak enforcement of consumer protection legislation has left residents at the mercy of natural disasters, a fraudulent government and an unaccountable business sector. To alleviate current conditions, new initiatives to; promote environmental conservation, create employment opportunities and increase the level of skilled labor through education should be implemented. The country needs to control corruption in the public and private sector to improve the delivery of public services such as healthcare, education, sanitation, housing, water, electricity and waste disposal and increase accountability for consumer rights violations in the private sector.
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