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Growth fuels income inequality in Bangladesh

Published 10 Oct,2020 via The Financial Express - Bangladesh's current state of inequality may be worse than the official surveys, says a global report, linking the widening disparity to higher economic growth rate in the past decade.

Bangladesh is ranked 113th among 158 governments, according to a report by Oxfam and Development Finance International (DFI).

In terms of public service, its ranking is far worse-142nd or 16th from the bottom.

The Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index' (CRII) noted Bangladesh spends little on health, just 5.04 per cent of total government budget.

Lower spending leads to inadequate public health services and people are forced to pay out of pocket for getting essential health services, the report said.

Bangladesh has achieved remarkable growth - 6.0 per cent on average in the past decade - which, however, witnessed rising income inequality.

In Bangladesh, gini coefficient of income, a measure to represent inequality, rose from 0.458 in 2010 to 0.482 in 2016.

"The actual inequality picture may be worse as household surveys mostly fail to capture information from ultra-rich households," said the report.

It pointed out Bangladesh has made some strides in improving social indictors, but has not taken decisive actions to introduce policies that can fight rising inequality.

Titled 'Fighting in the time of Covid-19', the new global index shows "catastrophic" failure to tackle inequality that left majority of the world's countries woefully unprepared for the pandemic.

It blamed "very low spending on public healthcare, weak social safety nets and poor labour rights" for the situation.

The report, however, praised Bangladesh for introducing some progressive measures during the Covid-19.

Still, it said that the country's social protection spending was "extremely low" at 6.14 per cent of the budget in 2019.

Only 33.4 per cent of Bangladesh's old age population is beneficiary of pension while this ratio is 100 per cent for the Maldives.

In the country of 165 million, only 24 million people are included in the social protection schemes, the report mentioned.

It called labour policies poor in Bangladesh, where majority of workforce is engaged in the informal work without social protection and access to quality public services.

The country is among the bottom of 10 countries with regard to labour and union rights, securing the 148th position.

The Oxfam report emphasised that Bangladesh should continue its steps taken during Covid response to expand social protection benefits and coverage and sharply increase its spending on health and social protection.

The country needs to ensure that more of its social spending gets to the poor by improving transparency and accountability, the global charity said.

The report said the South Asian countries are doing "far too little" to fight inequality.

India, Nepal and Sri Lanka have found themselves among bottom 10 countries, it revealed.

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