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Bangladesh: a model of world for poverty reduction

Editorial desk || shiningbd

Published: 21:24, 12 March 2021   Update: 21:31, 12 March 2021
Bangladesh: a model of world for poverty reduction

As that nation turns 50, its surprising success offers lessons about investing in the most marginalized.

One of the great moral stains on the United States is that the richest and most powerful country in history has accepted staggering levels of child poverty. With final legislative approval of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan on Wednesday, the United States has decided to scrub at that stain.

Most historic in the package are provisions that should sharply reduce child poverty. If these measures are made permanent, a Columbia University study suggests, child poverty could fall by half. By half! Biden will have done for children something analogous to what Franklin Roosevelt did for senior citizens with Social Security.

This represents a revolution in American policy and belated recognition that all society has a stake in investing in poor kids. To understand the returns that are possible, let’s look to lessons from halfway around the world.

Bangladesh was born 50 years ago this month amid genocide, squalor and starvation. Henry Kissinger famously referred to Bangladesh then as a “basket case,” and horrifying photos from a famine in 1974 sealed the country’s reputation as hopeless.

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Back in 1991, after covering a cyclone in Bangladesh that killed more than 100,000 people, I wrote a bleak article for The Times suggesting that the country was “bountiful primarily in misfortune.” I was right that Bangladesh faces huge challenges, not least climate change. But overall my pessimism was dead wrong, for Bangladesh has since enjoyed three decades of extraordinary progress.

Economic growth rates rose steadily, and for the four years before the current pandemic, Bangladesh’s economy soared by 7 to 8 per cent per year, according to the World Bank. That was faster than China’s.

Life expectancy in Bangladesh is 72 years. That’s longer than in quite a few places in the United States, including in 10 counties in Mississippi. Bangladesh may have once epitomized hopelessness, but it now has much to teach the world about how to engineer progress.

What was Bangladesh’s secret? It was education and girls.

In the early 1980s, fewer than one-third of Bangladeshis completed elementary school. Girls in particular were rarely educated and contributed negligibly to the economy.

But then the government and civic organizations promoted education, including for girls. Today, 98 per cent of children in Bangladesh complete elementary school. Still more astonishing for a country with a history of gender gaps, there are now more girls in high school in Bangladesh than boys.

 

This article is taken from the New York Times, written by Nicholas Kristof. To read the full article click this link.  

 

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