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Poverty in Numbers: Fewer Bangladeshis Living in Poverty

August 9, 2011

Poverty in Numbers: Bangladeshis Living in Poverty Decrease by 8.5% Between 2005 and 2010

Poverty Reduction

August 9, 2011 - Bangladesh reduced poverty from 40 percent to 31.5 percent between 2005 and 2010, according the new Household Income & Expenditure Survey 2010. Progress can also be seen in other dimensions of development.

Good news at record speed

Poverty estimates help determine the poverty profile of a country. Such estimates guide developing nations, like Bangladesh, during the formulation of national strategies like the forthcoming Sixth Five Year Plan of Bangladesh. Poverty estimates are also critical in monitoring the outcomes of the targets set in country strategies. The new poverty numbers will help the Government to refine policies based on results and evidence.

Good news at came at a record speed in Bangladesh with the World Bank’s assistance. “Bangladesh reduced poverty from 40 percent to 31.5 percent between 2005 and 2010” – announced the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and the World Bank at a joint workshop in June.

According to International Monetary Fund’s General Data Dissemination System (GDDS), it is a “good practice” to release new poverty numbers and key statistics within six to twelve months after completion of the field work. The BBS took only five months to release new poverty numbers and launch their recently completed 2010 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES).

The HIES is a major source of socio-economic information at the household level in Bangladesh. It provides data on household expenditure, income, consumption, savings, housing conditions, education, employment, health, sanitation, water supply, electricity usage, etc.

For the first time, the survey also gathered information on four new areas: (i) Microcredit; (ii) Disability; (iii) Migration and Remittance; and (iv) Crisis Management. These new information will support Bangladesh in addressing the socio-economic differences in the poverty levels of the country and help policy-makers take better informed decisions and adopt targeted poverty reduction strategies.

Innovation in collecting data

The BBS showed remarkable commitment in undertaking the survey. First, careful preparation ensured smooth implementation. Intensive field testing and multiple levels of enumerator training were carried out, ensuring that the HIES 2010, covering 12,240 households, could be fielded without interruption. Second, several rounds of consultations were undertaken on questionnaire design and sampling methodologies. This ensured sound technical advice, as well as buy-in from stakeholders.

For the first time, the internet was used for speedy data entry and processing. The World Bank provided laptops to the interviewers who cleaned and validated the data at the field level and then sent the data to headquarters through a specially-designed secure e-mail system. This minimized the time lag between the completion of data collection and the initiation of statistical analysis.

Better data for better policy-making

Better data is essential for better policy making. This view, shared by the Government of Bangladesh and the World Bank, paved the way for cooperation on the HIES 2010.

“The HIES 2010 is a collaborative effort of the BBS and the World Bank, and we appreciate the Bank’s role in providing technical and financial support,” said Air Vice Marshal A.K Khandker, Minister of Planning, Government of Bangladesh lauding the Bank’s role in enhancing Bangladesh’s statistical capacity.

The Bank’s Technical Assistance for the HIES 2010 has been comprehensive. USD 500,000 was mobilized through Institutional Development Fund Grant to purchase equipments to facilitate survey data collection and hire survey experts.

Looking ahead

The Government of Bangladesh now plans to move to a three-year interval between successive rounds of the HIES, from the current five-year interval.

The Bank will continue to provide technical support to complement the Government’s efforts to help provide a solid foundation for evidence-based policy-making in Bangladesh. In addition to the assistance for the HIES, the BBS has received a Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building to start preparing the National Strategy for Developing Statistics.