Reducing poverty through unity of leadership | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, October 20, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, October 20, 2009

Reducing poverty through unity of leadership

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"Make poverty history." Photo: Kishore Ray

THE International Day for Eradication of Poverty was observed on October 17 in Bangladesh with solemn promises to overcome poverty through unity and combined initiative. The committee headed by the speaker organised the program to bring the treasury bench and the opposition members of the parliament together on a common platform to declare their commitments to eradicate poverty and work together to turn Bangladesh into a hunger free nation.
Poverty reduction is a step towards peace. Poverty is the major reason for unrest, conflict and crisis. It is the root of terrorism. Poverty is the manifestation of cruelty to human beings and an extreme violation of human rights. Poor people are considered as persons as being at our mercy, not as human beings with dignity. This is the most unfortunate part of poverty.
"Make poverty history" is the global call for action against poverty. Responding to this call, all nations round the world have reaffirmed their commitments to poverty alleviation and redesigned their planning approaches to achieve the targets within the shortest possible time. The Bangladesh government has also fixed its target to reduce poverty by half by 2015, consistent with the millennium development goals. The National Strategy for Accelerated Poverty Reduction was designed by democratic governments for "unlocking the potential." Poverty being a multidimensional issue, having manifold expressions and different roots, the strategy to combat the same demands explicit and well designed programs with definite vision. There are many alternatives and approaches to combat poverty, but it depends on identifying reasons and areas of poverty accurately. In a democracy, the people's representatives can contribute effectively since they know their voters and their way of living.
According to Nobel Laureate Dr. Amartya Sen, poverty is caused by the lack of exchange entitlement in a market economy. Gainful employment is the principal challenge for the poor and the main focus for poverty alleviation.
Thus, strategies for poverty alleviation broadly encompass the redistribution and creation of assets in favour of the poor and give guarantee of employment at a reasonable wage and adoption of measures having direct benefit for the poor. This is possible when political leaders express their commitment to implement the program without corruption or discrimination.
Reduction of poverty is possible through capacity building of the workforce through skill development and imparting of technical know-how. For this purpose, education and training for empowerment leading to gainful employment and creating opportunities for income generating activities are the most essential points in the strategies to be adopted by the government.
Besides, it is necessary to identify the reasons and areas of poverty and adopt measures appropriate and relevant to the localities. This is possible when public representatives are involved with safety net initiatives of the government and other welfare programs pertaining to social security of the poor and deprived.
For this purpose, the local government institutions are most important catalysts for implementing the programs of the government and non-government organisations. The strengthening of local bodies is, therefore, one of the pre-conditions for the reduction of the poverty.
Poverty alleviation is not a simple diagnostic treatment like using paracetamol to reduce temperature. For this purpose, the most important intervention is the establishment of good governance.
The public, by and large, must believe that good governance shall prevail in every action and that there will not be any misappropriation of allocation meant for them, and their inputs shall be treated as value for money. In this area also, the involvement of public representatives appears to be a pre-condition to mobilise public opinion and ensure their pro-active support in implementing the programs.
Health and family welfare activities are the most vital components of poverty reduction. There must be extensive health care services and reproductive health interventions to improve the health condition, especially of the mother and the child. Poor health is an indication of poverty. Less calorie intake than required cannot make a person capable of contributing to his empowerment for economic emancipation.
Education on primary health care and nutrition and, most importantly, acceptance of family planning methods should be treated as important measures in poverty reduction. There must be more investment to improve the health care services in hard-to-reach areas and poverty prone localities with extensive messages for adopting small family norms. This is also possible with the unified support of the elected representatives, local bodies and civil society organisations.
For generating a source of income and involving the poor people in gainful employment in agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, fisheries and livestock etc are major areas of opportunities.
Besides, there is scope for working with a spirit of cooperation in the areas of social forestry, water and irrigation, health services, milk production, solar energy conservation, IT sector, utilisation of khas land etc.
All these activities demand the involvement of local leaders, who can make a difference provided they are committed to contributing for poverty alleviation and development of the country as a whole.
We are proud of Professor Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel laureate, for his contributions for poverty alleviation round the world as guide and philosopher.
To make poverty history in a country like ours, the vision of the nation should be "people prosperous, nation powerful, society just and civilised." This will not be possible unless a consensus is built up among politicians, local leaders, and peer groups to fight poverty with unity of purpose and establish good governance as a precondition to reduce poverty.
In the selection of the area's most poverty stricken people, identification of the deprived community and chosen activities for common benefits, consensus among the beneficiaries is needed, which, in turn, depends on the positive response of local leaders.
The manifestation of unity at the national level trickles down to the grassroots with manifold positive outcomes. Thus, the initiative of the speaker to bring both the leaders to a platform for a common cause was a noble one.
Unfortunately, it did not happen, but it should not be considered as well-nigh impossible and there should more initiatives in future since the nation demands consensus on national issues, especially on poverty reduction.
There should be more initiatives in future to work for a common cause to change the destiny of the people and make the country more respectable in the comity of nations.

Dhiraj Kumar Nath is a former Adviser to Caretaker Government.

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