ISSN 2330-717X

Bangladesh: Church Leaders Question Poverty Figures

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A national income survey has drawn mixed reactions from religious and government officials who say that while progress has been made, more needs to be done to improve living conditions.

The report, Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2010 sponsored by the World Bank and conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), found that poverty declined to 31.5 percent from 40 percent in 2005.

About 130 million people rose above the poverty line, the report also said.

Shajahan Ali Molla, director general of the BBS, told journalists on June 22 during an event to launch the report that surveys were conducted among 12,240 households across 64 districts.

“Poverty has decreased, but average incomes and expenditures have also fallen,” he said, adding that the lower middle classes experienced greater income growth than the middle classes.

Economist Wahiduddin Mahmud said the report was conducted during three different government administrations and was above any controversy over bias.

The results were more impressive, he added, in light of the global economic crisis in recent years.

But Bishop Gervas Rozario, chairman of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace, said the survey’s findings might not accurately reflect actual conditions.

“If poverty has truly declined by 8.5 percent, this is a good figure, but I’m doubtful about the realities on the ground.”

Francis Atul Sarker, development director of the Church-based social service agency Caritas Bangladesh, said greater development of the country would have a greater effect on poverty alleviation.

“If the ruling party and opposition could cooperate in developing the country, I think in next five years poverty will see a decline in poverty of up to 16 percent.”

About 17.6 percent of people live below the poverty line, with 21 percent in urban areas and 31.5 percent in rural areas.

Monthly household incomes average 10,641 taka (US$146) with remittance payments from family members abroad, according to data from the survey. With remittances, average income rises to 19,387 taka.

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The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News, UCAN) is the leading independent Catholic news source in Asia. A network of journalists and editors that spans East, South and Southeast Asia, UCA News has for four decades aimed to provide the most accurate and up-to-date news, feature, commentary and analysis, and multimedia content on social, political and religious developments that relate or are of interest to the Catholic Church in Asia.

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