The Financial Express

Finance minister doesn't believe 42pc Bangladeshis are poor now

| Updated: January 28, 2021 13:52:39

Finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal seen in this undated photo Finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal seen in this undated photo

Finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has trashed a recent survey report that showed the country's existing rate of poverty at around 42 per cent.

"I don't want to talk about it. You know, it's entirely illogical," he said, adding: "I believe this is a distortion of the real position."

Mr Kamal was talking to the newsmen after a meeting of the cabinet committee on government purchase on Wednesday.

Last Saturday, the South Asian Network on Economic Modelling (SANEM) unveiling a study on January 23 last said the people living below the poverty line (upper poverty line) almost doubled to 42 per cent in 2020 from 21.6 per cent in 2018.

It said the number of extreme poor (lower poverty line) rose to 28.5 per cent in 2020 from 9.4 per cent in 2018 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The non-profit research organisation reached some 5,577 people over the telephone for the survey in all 64 districts under eight divisions from November to December 2020.

Replying to a query, Mr Kamal questioned the SANEM's data-collecting method, the number of villages and households surveyed and the number of people reached.

Describing Bangladesh as a country of huge population, he said surveying only a few thousand or less will not produce a clear picture.

Asked whether the rise in the poverty rate was due to the pandemic, the minister said there could be loss of jobs. "But everyone has got their jobs back", he claimed.

"Nobody is starving. If you can show (people in distress), we'll take care of them," he asserted.

Nothing is there like this. It is easy to say many things, Mr Kamal said.

Asked about the latest government's assessment of the poverty situation, he said the Bureau of Statistics has not carried out a recent survey.

"We're still using the pre-pandemic figures. If the bureau conducts a survey again, we'll be able to know the latest position."

Replying to another query, the minister said Bangladesh is expected to graduate to the developing country status from the least developed status next month.

In another development, the cabinet committee approved an amendment to the gold import policy where approval was given to import raw gold to refine here.

"Many countries do the same. This is a good initiative," added Mr Kamal.

The meeting also approved procurement of 23,650 SPC poles for the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board to extend the distribution network to help achieve 100-per cent electrification.

The spun pre-stressed concrete poles will be bought from the Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory Ltd at a cost of Tk 323.78 million.

A proposal for the construction of a 20-storey building in Demra Police Lines area by housing and public works ministry also got approval from the committee.

A joint venture of Civil Engineers Ltd and Orbital Bangladesh will do the job at Tk 803.53 million.

The meeting also approved five proposals of Road Transport and Highways Division, among others.

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