Despite the widespread success in alleviating extreme poverty during the 2010-2016 fiscal year, the rate of extreme poverty has increased in two dozen districts.
A report by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) claims that inequalities in income, expenditure, government investment and social security allocations are creating new pockets of poverty in the north, west and southwest districts of the country.
According to the report, titled "Extreme Poverty: The Challenges of Inclusion in Bangladesh", the number of extremely poor people in the country was 1.7 crore before the beginning of the corona pandemic, which was 10% of the population.
However, this number has increased due to the pandemic. Taking the multidimensional poverty into consideration, the poverty rate now stands at 26%.
The report was released at a programme jointly organised by the BIDS and the Planning Commission at the NEC conference centre in the capital on Thursday.
"Although there is no information in the report about the number of people who have become poor due to the pandemic, the achievement of five years in poverty alleviation has been lost," claimed BIDS Director General Binayek Sen.
At the event, experts suggested increasing the scope of social security programmes and creating jobs in areas that have been identified as poor for decades, as well as in areas where poverty rate has increased recently.
The report recommends that the government reduce mismanagement in the selection of social security beneficiaries, ensure authenticity of information on poverty from the Bureau of Statistics and make an honest confession about the overall situation of poverty.
BIDS researchers Zulfiqar Ali and Badrunnessa Ahmed summarised the report at the programme.
They said about 54% of the people of Kurigram, the most impoverished in the country, are extremely poor. Poverty rate has increased by 22.7% in six years. Besides, the poverty rate has increased by 28.7% in Bandarban, 23.7% in Dinajpur and 16.7% in Kishoreganj.
According to the report, 57% people in Kurigram suffer from major diseases. The number of landless families is 60% in the district, which is only 8% the national level.
Speaking on the occasion, Planning Minister MA Mannan said, "Declining poverty rate is a matter of relief, at the same time, it is not a matter of relief if even one person does not eat."
He said Sunamganj is number one in terms of multidimensional poverty. Kurigram is on top in terms of the number of poor people.
Hopefully, this situation will not exist in the future.
Binayek Sen said we have to come out of the practice of including rich people in social security programme and excluding the poor from the list. "An accurate database is needed to do this. Moreover, some social security programmes should be implemented among all the people," he said.
Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman said although urban poverty has increased in the country, it is not discussed much. People's helplessness has increased in recent times as their expenditure in the non-food sector has almost doubled.
Advising the government to desert the tendency to run social security programmes with nominal allocations, he said, "A little amount of money is given as stipend in primary education. The allocation should be increased several times more."