Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has termed as "illogical" and "strange" non-profit research organisation Sanem's data, which recently indicated that the poverty rate in Bangladesh has doubled amid the Covid-19 crisis.
He however admitted that the government has no statistics on whether poverty increased due to the pandemic. Sanem – in a research report published on Sunday – stated that the poverty rate in Bangladesh went up from 20.5% to 40.9% amid the situation.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, after virtually presiding over cabinet committee meetings on economic affairs and government purchase, Kamal said, "Sanem's data is completely illogical and distorting. Do you really think that the poverty rate has increased in the country? Strange."
"We should first know how many villages they [Sanem] visited and how many people they spoke to. The rate of poverty cannot be determined by talking to 500-700 people on phone, as the results will depend on where they [the people] are from," he continued.
He added that Sanem must collect data from across the country to get a complete picture.
"People who used to work in a particular sector before the Covid-19 pandemic have now returned to it. No one is starving in Bangladesh," the finance minister highlighted.
When asked whether the poverty rate really increased amid the Covid-19 situation, Kamal said, "We do not have any statistics from the recent past. We are still using data collected before the pandemic, and we will be able to learn more about the matter after collecting new data."
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the amendment proposal of the National Gold Policy 2018 on Wednesday, which will allow traders to import unrefined gold and refine the precious metal in the country.
The amendment will also allow traders to import equipment for refining gold, the finance minister said.
Additionally, the Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase has approved seven proposals worth Tk1,142 crore from the power division, housing and public works plus roads and highways ministries.
Of the money, Tk1,110 crore will come from government funding, while the World Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency will provide the remaining Tk32 crore.