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August 12, 2010
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November 7, 2010

Regional Differences in Poverty Levels and Trends in Bangladesh: Are we asking the right questions?

Sajjad Zohid

There had been several studies using household level income-expenditure data to explain regional differences in poverty levels and trends within a country. The paper critically looks into those and proposes alternatives perspectives to understand the phenomena. It is more of an exposure of the limitations of methods relying on household level data and fashionable poverty measures in vogue, suggesting ways to reconstruct our approaches.

Bangladesh happens to be one of the ‘unfortunate’ poverty-stricken countries to embark upon poverty studies well ahead of others. It was during the mid 1970s when the World Bank sponsored a study, which produced several PhDs, few articles – but never a complete project report. When the Washington Consensus was breaking down, Bangladesh again was a place for the first movers; and the Analysis of Poverty Trend, a longitudinal empirical query, was undertaken by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) in 1990. It is important to note that the BIDS initiative long preceded Ravi Kanbur’s well-publicized effort to shift the World Bank agenda to formally include poverty at the center stage. Subsequently, we passed through a decade of PRSP and MDGs; and entering into another phase where (possibly) a PRSP-like accounting structure will be more formally incorporated into the traditional five year plan. We may also find a gradual metamorphosis of the MDG agenda in the remaining five years, possibly lot more mellowed to shift the focus away from the social sector targets and from the commitments on global partnership the world community once aspired for.

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