Social Development and Human Security: Issues and Perspectives
November 1, 2006
Economics of Politics in a Weak Nation Confronting Globalization
January 1, 2007

Reaching the Extreme Poor: Challenges, Constraints and Opportunities

Sajjad Zohir

Seminar Paper

Bangladesh had a successful expansion of the microcredit2 sector during the last two decades of the 20th century. During the early years of success, microcredit was deemed to be the instrument for helping poor graduate out of poverty. Such a perception had shaped the discourse on poverty in Bangladesh during subsequent years, even when empirical studies unveiled the limits of microcredit programs to reach out to the very poor. It is therefore important to revisit the conceptual framework that underlies our priors in setting the parameters of development and poverty discourse in Bangladesh as well as elsewhere. It is also critical to reconstruct some of the concepts shaping the discourse so that the challenging issues pertaining to programs for the extreme poor, discussed in the subsequent sections, may be appropriately structured. Following the discussion on concepts, the paper draws upon secondary sources to highlight limited experiences in reaching out to the extreme poor in Bangladesh. The exercise is meant to throw light on the potentials and limits of microcredit in addressing the needs of the extreme poor. Some of the alternatives (to microcredit) are only highlighted in the concluding section without great deal of elaboration.

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