No poverty after 2024: Muhith

Poverty would no longer exist in Bangladesh after 2024, Finance Minister AMA Muhith said in his speech at the 50th annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank in Yokohama yesterday.

“Only about 7 to 8 percent of the population (the disabled, mentally challenged and elderly) will be under state care. This growth process, however, has to be accompanied by employment growth and rising labour productivity, both of which are presently lacking, meaning that we still have to work hard in these areas.”

He noted that the increased requirement for foreign resources, especially investment, would pose a challenge before Bangladesh during the transformation of its economy.

Muhith hoped that the ADB and other development partners would join Bangladesh like before to help overcome these challenges.

“In the period from 2015 to 2020, we foresee an outlay of $398 billion for real sectors, of which, public and private sector shares will be 23 and 77 percent respectively. The share of external financing in the total outlay will be 9.6 percent.

“In 2020, we are targeting investment as a percentage of GDP to reach 34.4 percent. This will require creating a friendly investment climate by removing deficiencies in provision of infrastructure and services and attuning public sector polices and institutions for private investment.”

He said the government of Bangladesh is aware of bringing further reforms in various areas for promotion of private investment. Implementation of the annual performance agreement (APA), e-filing management, electronic government procurement (e-GP), second generation citizens charter and right to information act are expected to improve transparency, accountability and the overall quality of governance in Bangladesh.

He said the ADB recently launched its Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) 2016-2020 aligning it with the Seventh Five-Year Plan (FY2015-2020). The CPS aims to scale up lending to Bangladesh to $8 billion in 2016-2020 from $5 billion in 2011-2015.

Muhith said projects to be implemented in this period would enhance infrastructure and human capital toward diversifying the economy, boost climate and disaster resilience, develop economic corridor, improve rural livelihoods, and strengthen regional trade links, especially for energy.

The finance minister requested ADB President Takehiko Nakao to take proactive steps on operational issues. “I think efficiency in project preparation and implementation, reduction in time delays and cost overruns, internal process reforms, procurement and contracting reforms, strengthening of resident missions through decentralisation and greater delegation of power, are some key changes whose implementation can no longer be delayed.”

Amid talk of prosperity and growth, no one should forget that 1 in 10 people or nearly 800 million people in the world live on less than $1.90 a day, he said, quoting a WB report — Poverty and Shared Prosperity.

Muhith said half of the world’s extreme poor now live in Sub-Saharan Africa, and another third in South Asia.

“Unless we can foster faster global growth and reduce endemic inequality, we risk missing our SDG target of ending extreme poverty by 2030. To end poverty, we must make growth work for the poorest, and one of the surest ways to do that is to reduce unacceptable income disparity.”

He said the ADB is playing an important role in supporting investments and reforms in key sectors like energy and power, transport, education, urban infrastructure, agriculture and natural resources of Bangladesh.

The finance minister said global economic growth is picking up with a long-awaited cyclical recovery in investment, manufacturing, and trade (World Economic Outlook) as worldwide economic growth is expected to rise from 3.1 percent in 2016 to 3.5 percent in 2017 and 3.6 percent in 2018.

He said growth picking up in two-thirds of economies in developing Asia, supported by higher external demand, rebounding global commodity prices, and domestic reforms, makes the region the largest single contributor to global growth at 60 percent (Asian Development Outlook 2017 of the ADB).

Developing Asia continues to drive the global economy and South Asia remains the fastest growing of all sub-regions.

Claiming that Bangladesh has been in the global spotlight for many of its remarkable achievements, Muhith said rapid poverty reduction is one of them.

“Bangladesh made impressive gains in reducing the poverty level from more than 70 percent of its population in 1971, the year we became independent as a nation, to 56.7 percent in 1991-1992 and to 23.4 percent in 2016.”

Despite the ongoing sluggishness and crisis in the global economy, Muhith said economic growth in Bangladesh is quite robust as the average GDP growth rate for the last ten years has been 6.24 percent.

Bangladesh has been able to successfully break through the 6 plus percent growth ceiling as the GDP growth was 7.1 percent in FY2016 and is projected to be more than 7.2 percent in FY2017, he added.