Poverty rose in Dhaka, Barishal, Sylhet
Although the national poverty rate dropped in 2022, it rose in Dhaka, Barishal and Sylhet divisions.
The poverty rate rose mainly in the rural areas of the three divisions while the urban areas saw reductions for economic growth and development.
The once poverty-prone Rangpur, Khulna, Mymensingh and Rajshahi divisions attained massive progress in reducing poverty in 2022 compared to 2016.
Economic progress still down not permeate all throughout the land, for which income inequality and disparity has remained at the regional level in Bangladesh for years and are increasing, according to economists.
The Household Income and Expenditure Survey of 2022 shows that the national poverty rate dropped to 18.7 per cent, which was 24.3 per cent in 2016.
However, the poverty rate rose in Dhaka and Sylhet to 17.9 per cent and 17.4 per cent in 2022, which was 16 per cent and 16.2 per cent in the previous survey of 2016 respectively.
The poverty rate also rose in Barishal to 26.9 per cent in 2022 from 26.5 per cent in 2016. This caused Barishal to replace Rangpur as the most poverty-prone division in the country.
Rangpur's poverty rate was 24.8 per cent in 2022 whereas it was the highest at 47.2 per cent in 2016.
"Regional disparity in poverty is a common feature of our economy as the benefits of economic growth is not trickling down equally," said Mustafa Kamal Mujeri, a former director-general of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
"…and some regions are always benefitting from government projects," he said.
Mostly people of Dhaka division fell victim to the severe impacts of the pandemic. Meanwhile, many people temporarily migrated back to rural areas. "It also may be a reason of higher poverty in the rural areas of the divisions," said Mujeri.
Also executive director of the Institute for Inclusive Finance and Development, Mujeri recommends that the government give more focus on the equalising factors to reduce the inequality which has been rising over the years.
The Gini coefficient, which is the economic measure of equality, stood at 0.499 in 2022. Measured on a scale of 0 to 1, the closer it is to 1, the higher the inequality is in society.
Most mega projects of Bangladesh will ensure benefits to urban people. Connectivity in rural areas needs to increase so that people there can also get the benefit, he added.
The poverty rates in Mymensingh and Rajshahi divisions also dropped to 24.2 per cent and 16.7 per cent in 2022, which was 32.8 per cent and 28.9 per cent in 2016 respectively.
Khulna's poverty rate also declined to 14.8 per cent from 27.5 per cent in the same period.
Regional disparity is always seen in Bangladesh, so pockets of poverty remain in the economy, said Selim Raihan, a professor of economics at the University of Dhaka.
The disparity becomes visible in regions where there are inadequate job opportunities and people of these areas migrate to other parts of the country to improve their situation, he said.
About the overall poverty rate, Raihan, who is also the executive director of the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling, said the impact of the pandemic was not apparent, which was quite interesting.
However, people have adjusted to the situation after the pandemic, so a reduction in national poverty is believable, he added.
"How extreme poverty was reduced to 5.6 per cent from 12.9 per cent is not clear to me," said Raihan.