Monday, May 30, 2011

Bangladesh plans to reduce poverty by half

Photo: Hard core poor queue for subsidised cereal food
SALEEM SAMAD

THE WORLD'S poorest country, Bangladesh, envisions alleviating poverty by half and dramatically increased human development budget by 28 percent.
Planning minister A.K. Khandaker told journalists on Sunday that beginning July 1 government will invest in health services, education and infrastructure development. While power, energy and transport sectors received top priority, independence war veteran Khandaker said.

After years of under-investment in the power generation, the impoverished nation of 150 million has a daily shortfall of 2,000 megawatts, with rolling blackouts hitting the private sector, particularly manufacturing, hard.

The National Economic Council (NEC) chaired by prime minister Shiekh Hasina on Sunday has approved a 460 billion taka ($6.3 billion), of which 251.8 billion Taka, or 55 percent, will be its own money, which aimed at accelerating development activities, writes state-run news service Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha.

The remaining 41 percent or USD 2.54 billion will be from development partners as foreign aid, Khandaker briefed journalists after the meeting.

The World Banks says Bangladesh needs annual economic growth of 8.0 percent to achieve its goal of becoming a middle income country by 2021.

Nearly 13 percent has been budgeted for free primary schools and subsidies for controversial Koranic schools, while much talked about rural development and rural institutions have received nine per cent and 8.57 per cent for health, nutrition, population and family welfare.

The government after several hiccups finally approved a national health policy on Monday to keep pace with visible success in reaching the health-for-all goal.

Opposition and economist are critical of the government, regarding the slow and non-implementation of scores of development projects. The planning minister had no explanation to this widespread criticism, but said steps have taken to vigorously monitor the performance of the projects.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and politics. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com