Lack of database hurts anti-poverty work

Lack of flawless database and failure to develop dependable statistics is making implementation of poverty alleviation programmes of the government difficult.

There is no dependable database of poor people in the country until now.

In 2013, the National Household Database Project was created,  the deadline for Tk 328 crore project funded by the government and the World Bank has already been extended thrice but no  database is in place until now.

The fourth deadline awaits approval and the cost of preparing the database has escalated to Tk 728 crore.

The management information system for the project is yet to be in place.

Inconsistencies in information collected for the database is another matter of concern.

The government’s decision to provide maternity allowance to six lakh women suffered a huge set back as the World Bank reduced $50 million from the project as the authorities could not identify the potential beneficiaries due to lack of acceptable statistics.

The government had taken the World Bank funded project expecting that the National Household Database would be in place in 2014.

The National Household Database was created with the task of preparing the database of poor people in the country to facilitate identification of would-be beneficiaries of social safety net and disaster management programmes.

The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics could not in 18 months release the reports of the impact of covid in Bangladesh though it conducted two surveys.

The BBS also could not release the Gross Domestic Growth data in last two years.

The obvious upshot is confusion over the impact of the pandemic on the national economy.

The government has been projecting GDP growth rate for 2020-21 at 6 per cent but the World Bank projects it at 3.6 per cent.

Since 2017, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics could not carry out any labour force survey though it is required to do it every three months to provide a clear picture about the country’s labour market.

None can provide the actual number of job losses due to the pandemic.

There is also controversies over the number of new poor created under the impact of the pandemic when the emergence of the new poor call for policy changes as most of them are outside the coverage of social safety nets.

Urban poor, left outside the coverage of social safety nets in the past, needs to be included in poverty alleviation programmes, economists hold.

In the face of the negative impact of the pandemic, say economists, poverty alleviation programmes must be changed. But it would be a difficult proposition unless there is an acceptable database.

As only 0.44 per cent of the old age allowance is provided to the old people among the urban poor, 0.50 per cent to the urban widows and 0.26 per cent of the disability allowance to the urban disabled, the system and policy need a thorough overhaul, according to economists.

To make matter worse for the needy, microcredit lenders are facing a crisis.

Many of the small microcredit lenders have shut down or scaled down their activities, as the borrowers, hard hit by the pandemic, could not repay their loans.

The big microcredit lenders also became virtually inactive as the rural economy lost its momentum under the impact of the pandemic. They are also unable to recover much of their loans.


Jehangir Hussain is a journalist.


Source:  The Financial Express

Date: 30 June 2021