|At Dhaka launch of 'Progress for Children', Bangladesh Minister of Finance Abul Maal Abdul Muhith (centre) is flanked by State Minister of Women and Children Affairs, Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury and UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh, Carel de Rooy. Prof. Barkat, President of the Bangladesh Economic Association, is second from left.|
By Christine Jaulmes
DHAKA, Bangladesh, 25 October 2010 – How can Bangladesh achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals with equity? This question was at the heart of a recent national seminar jointly organized in Dhaka by UNICEF and the Bangladesh Economic Association, and attended by Minister of Finance Abul Maal Abdul Muhith and State Minister of Women and Children Affairs Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury.
Experts in attendance agreed that Bangladesh has made tremendous progress with regard to economic growth and human development, but child poverty and socio-economic disparities remain a grave concern. Almost half of the country’s 68 million children live below the poverty line. Reinforcing this inequity, data from the 2009 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey reveal that considerable disparities exist between and within districts and sub-districts.
In the recent report, ‘Progress for Children: Achieving the MDGS with Equity’, which had its national launch at the Dhaka event, UNICEF argues that if such inequalities were addressed, progress towards the development goals and poverty reduction would be accelerated.
Investment in the most vulnerable
“UNICEF is an agency that likes to innovate,” the Minister of Finance said, noting that UNICEF launched the concept of ‘adjustment with a human face’ in the 1980s. “Now, in 2010, UNICEF is introducing the concept of ‘development with equity,’” he added.
During the seminar, UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh Carel de Rooy presented two new studies produced by UNICEF Bangladesh to complement the global report. The papers – ‘A Case for Geographic Targeting of Basic Social Services’ and ‘Investing in Vulnerable Children’ – examine how equity-focused strategies could translate into policies, programmes and budget allocations in Bangladesh.
|UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh, Carel de Rooy, presenting a recent publication of UNICEF Bangladesh - 'A Case for Geographic Targeting of Basic Social Services'.|
The first study suggests that by better targeting of investment and programmes towards human and social development, Bangladesh could achieve the MDGs with equity and reduce poverty at a faster pace. The second paper outlines a plan for investing in vulnerable children that would require only 0.37 per cent of the national budget in funding over a period of 10 years.
Breaking the cycle of poverty
“Bangladesh should consider incorporating these equity-focused strategies in its sixth five-year development plan, which is currently being prepared,” said Mr. de Rooy. “Targeting the least performing geographic areas with adequate provision of basic social services, and increasing investment in the most vulnerable children, could mitigate the widening socio-economic inequalities and consequently accelerate poverty reduction.”
In his speech, the Minister of Finance committed to find ways of accelerating poverty reduction through a more equitable development approach. The Minister of Women and Children's Affairs stressed that investing in marginalized and vulnerable children would help break the cycle of inter-generational poverty – and that it was necessary to look at proper utilization of resources, beyond the issue of resource limitation.
“Socio-economic inequality is the key barrier to development, particularly in reducing poverty,” said Prof. Abdul Barkat, President of the Bangladesh Economic Association, in concluding remarks at the seminar. “Inequality also perpetuates poverty from one generation to the next. This is why it is so crucial for the government to invest in the most vulnerable children as part of the poverty reduction strategy.”
'Progress for Children' interview series
All stories include audio and/or transcript from interviews with experts on the Millennium Development Goals.