34 percent Bangladeshis not poor

Prof Abul Barkat

UNB/The Daily Star July 20, 2012

Though the government has reduced population growth and improved health and education, around 91.8 million or 66 percent people of the country are now poor, shows a recent study.

“In my estimation, of the total 150 million populations, 66 percent are now poor,” noted economist Prof Abul Barkat showed in the study.

Meanwhile, the number of poor people has increased by 38.9 million over the past 25 years (1984-2010), the study, titled ‘Emerging Middle Class and Consumer Market in Bangladesh’, also showed.

“This increase of poor population is a clear reflection of the failure of the national development policy,” said Prof Barkat, also president of Bangladesh Economic Association (BEA).

According to his estimation, 47 million or 31.3 percent people of the country are middle class and the rest 4.1 million or 2.7 percent are rich or affluent.

He said the middle class in Bangladesh is unique, a complex combination of many good and bad, and the middle class is not a hundred percent homogenous entity.

On the basis of wealth criterion, middle class can be divided at least into three categories – lower middle class, mid-middle class and upper-middle class, he said adding that each type of middle class people has their own characteristics, status and life style.

“The size and growth of the middle class in Bangladesh during 1984-2010 has major implications for the current and future broad-based growth and development,” Barakat said.

The tendency of the growth of socioeconomic class structure in Bangladesh clearly indicates that the overall poverty situation witnessed a downtrend during the last 25 years, the study said.

It said the country’s emerging middle class has immense potential to help accelerate industrialisation.

Barakat said the middle class can play a vital role in expanding the domestic consumer market, especially for the durable industrial products.

The country’s growing middle class, he added, has enormous power of consumption and with this spending the domestic market size can be expanded further resulting in increased real investment, employment, productivity and savings.