The updated poverty maps to help targeted policy intervention for poverty reduction

April 2, 2009

DHAKA, April 2, 2009: The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and the World Bank, in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP), updated the Poverty Maps for Bangladesh.
Poverty mapping is an important statistical instrument that can estimate the poverty incidence at Upazila levels. The new generation of poverty maps released yesterday is based on the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) of 2005 and the Population Census of 2001. The updating exercise was financially supported by the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID).

Bangladesh has experienced significant poverty reduction over the past two decades.  The poverty incidence declined from 57 percent at the beginning of the 1990s to 40 percent in 2005.  However, a closer look to the recent reduction in the national poverty rate shows uneven progress amongst different areas and communities.  In fact, there remain many areas where the incidence of poverty is far larger than the national figures would suggest. 

The poverty maps enable government, civil society and development partners to identify poorer areas with great accuracy.  Recognizing the geographical and regional variations and spatial inequality in growth and poverty allows for more effective targeting of policy interventions and programs based on local conditions.  

“World Bank is happy to produce the new generation of poverty maps in collaboration with Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and World Food Programme (WFP)” said Xian Zhu, Country Director, World Bank. “These data will be very helpful for the government to plan and evaluate the poverty reduction strategy and resource allocation.”

Poverty maps can be constructed to show both poverty rates and extreme poverty rates. Hence, if resources are limited, a map of extreme poverty may provide a useful guiding tool for prioritization and programming of policy interventions and resource allocations. However, poverty maps need regular updates to reflect the gains and inequalities created by the rapid economic growth or the external shocks from natural disaster.

In response to the demand for updating poverty maps of 2001, we started to produce new poverty maps in mid 2007” said A Y M Ekramul Hoque, Director General, BBS. “The poverty mapping exercise will strengthened BBS’ capacity to produce, update and use future poverty maps. Further these spatial data will be critical inputs in planning poverty alleviation strategy.” 

Updating poverty maps without a new Census is a daunting exercise” said Nobuo Yoshida, a poverty economist in the World Bank.  “Bangladesh is among the first countries that overcame this challenge by adopting the latest methodological improvements. There is no doubt that the lessons learnt during this exercise will benefit development practitioners and researchers around the world.”  

Comparing poverty maps with other maps of educational attainment, natural disasters, and access to markets and infrastructure, is useful to see potential bottlenecks of poor areas. For example, poverty appears to be highly associated with low agricultural wages. Agriculture wage rate in the west is lower than in the east, which may be one of contributing factors to why the western part of the country lags behind the eastern part in poverty reduction.
The poverty maps being released today are critical inputs for WFP’s own planning, targeting, and the allocation of our resources.” Said John Aylieff, Representative, WFP   “We look forward to working with the Government of Bangladesh, the World Bank, and all our partners, to ensure that these maps are widely accessible for use in programmes aimed at poverty and hunger reduction."

Poverty is also correlated with proneness to natural disasters and market accessibility. For example this is the case in the monga and coastal areas.  Both areas are very poor and suffer from repeated natural disasters and limited access to Dhaka. In contrast, the areas between Dhaka and Chittagong cities enjoy proximity to the two growth poles and low incidence of poverty.
The poverty maps, along with maps of access to markets and infrastructure, can be used for assessing the economic and poverty impact of infrastructure investment.  For instance, such a spatial database can show what areas are likely to enjoy benefits from the Padma Bridge. However, it is worth noting that such comparisons can be a good starting point for planning and more careful studies are needed to design planning and policy interventions.

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