Think-tanks’ new poor figure flawed: Planning minister
The surveys conducted by private think-tanks to deduce the number of new poor due to the pandemic do not stand scientifically, said Planning Minister MA Mannan yesterday.
According to the various organisations, the number of new poor ranges from one crore to five crore, he told journalists after the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) meeting at the ministry.
"As a result, it is difficult to say which of these is true. Finding out how many people have become poor in a scientific way takes time."
But the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics is conducting a survey to find out a ballpark figure.
"However, I will request the BBS to estimate the number by conducting a conceptual survey in a short time," Mannan added.
The survey will be completed in the next one and a half years, said Muhammad Yamin Chowdhury, secretary of the statistics division.
"It can then be said how many people have actually become poor."
Asked if they can survey in a shorter time, he said there is no scope to verify the authenticity of quick surveys.
Conducting surveys over the phone can give a general idea, but the exact number can be verified by asking more in-depth questions and doing follow-ups, which the BBS does in its longer surveys, he said.
"Last year we did a similar survey though the mobile phone. This year, maybe a [more in-depth] survey can be done to get an idea about the issue," Chowdhury added.
Despite the increase in the allocation of the social safety net in the proposed budget for fiscal 2021-22, the government has not brought the newly poor people under it.
Social safety net schemes were allocated Tk 107,610 crore in the upcoming fiscal year, which is up 12 percent year-on-year but lower than the average 17.7 percent growth of allocation between fiscals 2009-10 and 2020-21.
According to an estimate of the Centre for Policy Dialogue in April, some 1.60 crore new poor were created by the pandemic.
Another survey done around the same time by the Power and Participation Research Centre and the Brac Institute of Governance and Development showed that 2.45 crore fell into poverty even before the second wave of the pandemic hit.
About 20.5 percent of the population was already living in poverty and the pandemic raised the ratio to 30 percent, according to the World Bank.