Wealth concentration a concern: UN official | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 04, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:52 AM, February 04, 2019

Wealth concentration a concern: UN official

SDG progress report launched

Concentration of wealth to a certain group of people in Bangladesh is a source of concern as it is stoking income inequality, said a senior official of the United Nations yesterday.

Income inequality is rising not only in Bangladesh but also in its comparable countries, said Mia Seppo, the UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh.

Seppo was speaking at the launch of the “Sustainable Development Goals: Bangladesh Progress Report 2018” at the National Economic Council auditorium in Dhaka.

“The report shows that the development policies have been inadequate to offset the forces that create income inequality in economies. Budget allocation also shows a mixed picture.”

“As Bangladesh seeks to graduate to a middle-income country, it needs to make progress in other critical areas, notably in good governance, the rule of law and effective and independent institutions.” Seppo said the country has made good strides in some areas of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She lauded the country's improvement in the areas of reducing child and maternal mortality.

She said the country has made good progress in tackling disasters but faces risks of mega disasters and climate change.

She said further progress is needed in the area of restraining child marriage.

The UN official called job creation and skills training for the large number of unemployed youth a big challenge for Bangladesh.

“Strengthening the skills levels and employability of youths is crucial for accelerating poverty reduction and reaping the benefits of demographic dividends.”

Seppo said despite the large increases in the absolute levels of social expenditure over the last few years, the proportion of total government expenditure on health, education and social protection has actually decreased.

She said ensuring rule of law and access to justice for the poor is still quite a challenge.

Arbitrary arrests, disappearances and the incidents of torture and the incidents of human rights violation against journalists and trade union leaders are taking place.

“So, the government should focus on good governance as it has already announced a zero-tolerance against corruption. The capacity of law enforcing agencies needs to be improved.”

Wahiduddin Mahmud, a noted economist, said the country has taken strides in the areas such as reduction of child and maternal mortality. However, the revenue-to-GDP ratio is still not satisfactory.

“If we look at social spending on health and education, the ratio in terms of GDP remains very low. With such a low social spending, we are still ahead of comparable countries in most social indicators. It is called Bangladesh's development surprise.”

He said the best surprise has been there because Bangladeshi people, particularly in rural areas, are very eager to adopt anything. The people have taken the advantages of low-cost solutions, he said.

“However, the government needs to spend more for ensuring quality education and enabling the poor's access to health services.”

Md Nojibur Rahman, principal secretary to the prime minister, suggested that the planning commission deepen the engagement of the government with development partners so that the country can make progresses in SDGs' attainment.

MA Mannan, planning minister, said the country has integrated the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda in its 7th five-year plan, including preparation of a number of key policy documents to identify the ministries and agencies responsible for SDGs' implementation and guide them in their actions.

The report said there is a need for enhanced international cooperation and support for achieving 41 of the 169 targets of the SDGs. Bangladesh has made good progress on all three of the first three SDGs pertain to ending poverty, hunger and improving public health and is on track to achieving the targets.

Of the 17 targets under the three SDGs, four have been met already, six are on track and five need more attention, said Shamsul Alam, a member of the General Economics Division, a branch of the Planning Commission, while presenting the report.

The progress on reducing extreme poverty measured by $1.90 a day or by national poverty line and on expanding coverage of social protection and the proportion of government expenditure on services as a share of the total government expenditure is on track, said the report.

Mashiur Rahman, economic affairs adviser to the prime minister, also spoke.

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