The history of poverty might have started with the beginning of human civilisation. Though the scale was not so severe, but slowly it became prominent when the word ‘rich’ started rooting in our societal livelihood.
Since then, poor and rich are living together with lot of good and bad tastes. Poverty thus has become a very complex issue that needs to be resolved for a healthy world society. Therefore, world leaders are giving top priority to reducing poverty at a substantial rate aiming to its total elimination from the world.
Poverty is one of the major obstacles to the development of a country. A healthy and strong nation could never be built unless poverty is eliminated or reduced substantially from that country. Poverty does not only make a country’s people to suffer, but remains as a burden for the world community. The social reality has a very negative impact on country’s economic and political scenario. It might result famine, chaos, increase of crimes, breach of laws, increase of homeless people, mass emigration; even it might risk country’s sovereignty.
As mentioned, poverty has both political as well as economic implications and consequences. The economic reason explodes into political chaos. In other words, political stand on this issue directs the economic situation of the under poverty population. Above all, social framework of the entire nation is so much degraded to make it dysfunctional. If we look around us, it would not be very difficult to recognise how quickly the deterioration of social norms and values is occurring every moment all over the world. The ultimate result never brings any positive signs in country’s political and economic sectors. Obviously the main cause is the poverty. And elimination or substantial reduction of poverty is the only solution. However, a committed leadership can lead a country’s economy in the right direction and thus can play an important role in the poverty reduction process.
We believe it becomes easier to maintain peace in political as well as economic sector through establishment of an economically just society. All our nationals, whether they live in the rural or the urban areas, east, west, south or north, should be brought above the absolute poverty line. The narrowing of the income gap, through the legitimate provision of opportunities, through a closer parity of social services and infrastructure, through the development of beneficial economic culture and through maximum human resource development, would facilitate the reduction of poverty.
Poverty is a reality in the world since the creation of human being. It is a complex issue in various dimensions. It is recognised that poverty could be persistent or transient. Finding no other ways, the poor embrace poverty in their lives. Our experience tells us that absolute poverty can be reduced, if at least, economic growth is (i) put on a sustained basis and (ii) remains neutral with respect to income distribution to reduce income inequality. An efficient macroeconomic management can create opportunities for investment and competitive markets for alleviation of poverty through sustained economic growth.
It has been noted that highly unequal distribution of income is not conducive to either economic growth or poverty reduction. While formulating a country’s economic policies, the government should not in any way accept and include any such policies that discriminate against or exclude poor from development.
All sections of the population, whether poor or rich, should have the opportunities to be involved in the mainstream of the economy. Migrant workers and their remittances would contribute a lot to reducing poverty and income inequality, if we can plan accordingly.
A macro-level study of 74 low- and middle-income countries by Adams and Page (2003) found that remittances have strong poverty-reducing impact. Many studies have attempted to address the impact of remittances on economic growth and poverty alleviation. Research conducted in Nepal showed that a dramatic increase in remittances was responsible for reduction in headcount poverty rate in the country, which declined from 42% in 1995-96 to 31% in 2003-04. According to World Bank, it was 25.2% in 2010. Out of 27.8 million people in Nepal (World Bank 2013), around 1 (one) million households are under poverty line. According to the World Bank’s statistics, 31.5% of the population of Bangladesh was under poverty line in 2010. A recent study conducted in Bangladesh says that only 13% of the remittance receiving households lives under poverty, whereas the national poverty rate is 26% (RMMRU, 2014).
As remittance boosts up household income and acts as a powerful anti-poverty force, our aim is to transform the households under poverty into remittance receiving households and ultimately to eradicate extreme poverty from the workers sending countries. It has been found that more than half of world’s migrant workers are from developing countries. The statistics further indicates that largest migrant workers are from Asian countries more precisely countries of South and South East Asia, which is more than 40% of the global migrant stocks (World Bank, 2013). These migrant workers are basically the preys of middlemen, agents or syndicate. As these migrant workers are very poor and not so much educated, their vulnerability made them to be easily exploited. Even they are forced to meet up a very high migration cost selling their belongings whatever they have or taking loan at high interest rate.
If we look towards the South Asian countries, we can easily understand the situation of our people living under poverty line. It has been observed from various research works that families getting remittances are economically better than others. In fact, remittance does not only increase income of remittance receiving families but also plays a pivotal role in reducing poverty through economic development. That’s why if we can transform the families under poverty line into remittance receiving families, then they will come out of poverty. And it is possible if necessary steps are taken in migration management process of workers sending countries.
According to World Bank, around one billion people in the world live under extreme poverty and 50% of them from Asia. We can see the poverty situation existing in some of South Asian countries from the table below. Remittance data were the base while calculating poverty rates shown in the table. These rates might differ from World Bank’s data. It is to be noted that calculation of poverty rates also depends on other factors like growth rate of internal and external investment, management of national economy, population growth, political stability, etc. in addition to remittance.
An analysis of last six year’s poverty rates mentioned in the above table indicates that it would take 18-19 years for Bangladesh, around 9 years for India, 14-16 years for Nepal, 3-5 years for Pakistan and around 10 years for Sri Lanka to eliminate extreme poverty, only if the same economic environment continues. But if we can bring the migration system under a special arrangement, poverty could be reduced at a faster rate. In that case, extreme poverty could be eliminated from Bangladesh within 8-9 years, from Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka 3-4 years, etc.
We know remittance plays very crucial role in the remittance receiving countries’ economy. But at the same time, we should not forget that migration is not a permanent solution for a country’s socio-economic development. Therefore, we should not waste any time in appropriate planning to get maximum benefit from migration. Above all, migrant workers sending countries should ensure a well managed migration system that would alleviate poverty and overall development.
In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals to save the Earth and to ensure development for all; and elimination of extreme poverty was on the top. They want to do that by next fifteen years. To reach at that goal, seven issues have been identified. According to the UN, poverty causes problems in livelihood, increases hunger and malnutrition, deprives from basic services including education, and increases social inequality. Considering this situation, the UN has suggested to include economic growth mechanism aiming to increase sustained employment and social equality. Member countries, especially the workers sending countries, are expected to take necessary steps to implement SDGs through their own economic structures and hopefully reach to the goal in time. And on elimination of poverty, migration issue should get preference to be considered as an important element of SDGs.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary