Growth and development strategies must remain inclusive and equitable, Bangladesh Bank Governor Atiur Rahman said yesterday.
The strategies should promote social inclusion and empowerment of the poor with services in basic healthcare, education and employment, he said.
Rahman spoke at a programme on Eradicate Extreme Poverty Day 2014 organised by Shiree, World Food Programme (WFP) and Manusher Jonno Foundation at Bashundhara Convention Centre in Dhaka yesterday.
Shiree is a challenge fund supported by the UKaid from the Department for International Development in partnership with the government of Bangladesh.
The Manifesto for the Extreme Poor with a demand—eradication of extreme poverty from Bangladesh by 2021—through three distinct actions and five processes is indeed a cause to bring Bangladesh together, Rahman said.
The three actions are: design and implement a national programme of livelihood; systematically monitor and reform public services and social protection transfer; and promote the institutional, policy and behavioural changes, he said.
Partnership, participation, action, accountability and inclusion are the five processes, the governor said.
Shiree launched the manifesto after discussing the issues with all stakeholders, including development partners, in December last year.
Economic growth alone will not be sufficient to get rid of extreme and chronic poverty as poverty is deep-rooted with many other overlapping causes, Rahman said.
“We are on course to become a middle income country. We want a nation that is not only a middle-income one but also free from extreme poverty.”
“I endorse the three broad actions presented in the manifesto and accept the principle that we must set about this work now and can make rapid progress with the aim of reaching our destination,” Rahman said.
Collective working efforts can provide a clear and consistent cost-effective approach towards eradication of extreme poverty which is indeed a curse for the civilisation, he said.
“The event is evidences of our deep and broad-based collective commitment and activism in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, which are affronts to human dignity,” Rahman said.
“Looking forward, we will need to strengthen individual and collective efforts driven by a common objective of eradicating extreme poverty, while economic growth remains vital for reducing poverty.”
It is required to complement efforts to enhance growth with policies that allocate more resources to the extreme poor, he said.
These resources can be distributed through government programmes, such as conditional and direct cash transfers, or through the growth process itself, he said.
BB is supporting the government to eradicate extreme poverty by 2021 with its financial inclusion campaign to open up and widen access of the poor to financial services, he said.
Opportunities are given to the farmers and hard-core poor to open a bank account at Tk 10 only, Rahman said. Under this facility, about 13.3 million accounts have already been opened, he said, adding that about 9.7 million of the accounts are for farmers, he said.
Loans are extended to the deprived landless, marginal and sharecroppers at a low interest rate, with flexible conditions and without any collateral through launching a special refinanced credit line, he said.
“Preference has been given to distribution of agriculture loan in relatively underdeveloped areas like char, haor and the coastal areas,” he said.
The banking regulator has also given directives to banks to expand financial allocations and services in various underserved segments of the society to transform the banking services into a more humane one, he said.
BB has now extended its initiative to bring street children under institutional financial support by opening their own bank account with only Tk 10 as well, he said.
The government has many social safety net programmes to eradicate extreme poverty by 2021, said Tariq-ul-Islam, secretary of the women and children affairs ministry.
The projects are: vulnerable group development for ultra-poor project; promotion of legal and social empowerment of women in Bangladesh; policy leadership and advocacy for gender equality and empowerment and protection of children, he said.
The objectives of vulnerable group development for ultra-poor project are to provide finance, training and allowance with a view to reducing poverty, he added.
The panel members of the programme have highlighted many challenges and some challenges came as opportunity, said Christa Rader, country director of WFP.
Bangladesh has the opportunity to be one of the first countries to face its enormous challenges to eradicate extreme poverty, Rader said.
“Let us join our forces to eradicate poverty by 2021 on the occasion of the country's 50th birthday.”