Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) have jointly conducted a survey on the poverty situation. The findings these two organisations have revealed on poverty are alarming.
According to the survey, some 2.5 million people have fallen below the poverty line. Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) says the country's population is 165 million. Before the outbreak of coronavirus, some 21 per cent of the people were below the poverty line as per the government estimation. And 21 per cent of total population means 34.6 million people are poor. Some 2.45 million people have been added to this. According to survey of SANEM, the rate of poverty is 42 per cent.
When the government declared the lengthy general holiday last year to contain the spread of coronavirus, many things including public transport in the private sector were shut down. This had a serious impact on the working people. Those who work in the informal sector or live on small businesses lost their livelihoods. Most of them went back to the villages. Although many returned after the general holiday, they did not get work. They were compelled to choose alternative jobs at low wages.
The PPRC and BIGD survey also says poor people in the city are mostly affected due to coronavirus because 85 per of working people work in the service and informal sectors. While revealing the findings, PPRC executive director Hossain Zillur said the second wave of coronavirus hit the country when the economy started turning around after tackling the first wave of coronavirus. On the one hand the income of poor people has decreased, on the other hand the the cost of living has increased due to the high price of essentials. They are now they are unable to do to spend the amount on food as they did before.
The government has to find ways to come of this crisis. First of all, the poor people who lost jobs have to be provided cash support so that they can meet their daily expenses. Secondly, the wheels of economy have to be brought back on track so that the jobless people can return to work. Last year the government took an initiative to provide a cash support of Tk 2500 to each of 5 million families. But in absence of a fair list, all did not receive the assistance. A total of 3.6 million people got this support. This year, the government has taken an initiative to provide the same amount of money to 3.6 million of people and Tk 5,000 to each of the affected farmers. Although the amount is low, we welcome the initiative. We call upon the government to learn from past mistakes. Send the financial assistance to the people in time.
Secondly, the government is selling onions, edible oil, gram and sugar through the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB). The government has to ensure that genuine poor get the items. The amount of financial assistance is very low in our country in comparison to the neighbouring India. If even this meagre amount of money fails to reach the people properly, this would be most unfortunate.