The government has decided to place its anti-poverty plan, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), before the country's highest policymaking body, the Executive Committee on the National Economic Council (ECNEC), next week.
Mounting pressure from the donors and the desperate need for financial support from a top donor agency have prompted the policy planners to submit the much-talked-about document for consideration by the ECNEC October 16, officials said Tuesday.
"It's a welcome development that the PRSP is going to be approved by the ECNEC next week," a high official of the Planning Commission said.
"Hopefully, the final version of the home-grown PRSP will be released by the end of December this year following the endorsement of the ECNEC. It will serve as a strategic tool for combating the country's pervasive poverty," the official said.
The ECNEC meeting, to be chaired by Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, is being convened at a critical time when the government is scrambling hard to obtain US$200 million in budgetary support from the World Bank (WB).
Finance and Planning Minister M Saifur Rahman said the delay in endorsing the PRSP is among the causes for which the Washington-based development financier has suspended the release of the third installment of the Development Support Credit (DSC) for the last couple of months.
Officials at the Planning Commission also acknowledged that the government has missed a number of deadlines to finalise the PRSP as desired by the country's top donors.
Also, the delay has put a financial burden on the government's coffers.
"The government will have to give a hefty amount as the contractual tenures of two leading consultants involved in the process of preparing the PRSP have been extended for another three months," an official said who asked not be named.
The three-year strategic document has already been reviewed by the 21-member National Steering Committee on the PRSP headed by principal secretary to the Prime Minister Dr Kamal Uddin Siddiqui.
Despite Bangladesh's a sustained 5.5 percent economic growth in the last decade, poverty remains a nagging problem crippling the country's potential to move towards a higher growth trajectory.
By various estimates, around 48 percent of the population is still living on less than a dollar a day, a benchmark of the United Nations to measure poverty.
The revised PRSP document, which envisages to cut poverty significantly, has further shored up the issues of good governance, corruption and administrative reform as desired by the Local Consultative Groups (LCG), a club of the country's bilateral and multilateral donors.
But the final paper has included a new issue-monitoring the actions relating to the PRSP implementation.
Officials said that the final document has adequately dealt with issues such as tourism, urban poverty, land and the rights of indigenous people in light of inputs from the donor groups.
It has also mapped out a comprehensive strategy to fight graft, they added.
Sources said the General Economics Division (GED) of the Planning Commission would monitor the status of the ultra-poor, the poverty situation and track implementation process in the next three years.
The final PRSP would see an updated medium term macroeconomic framework (MTMF) and policy matrices, sources added.
It has also revised the targets of the economic growth and export taking stock of the situation of the quota-free regime.
The draft version of the PRSP, which was formally released on January 13, 2005, was drafted in December last.
The donors' Joint Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) is being prepared in the light of the PRSP. The WB, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK and Japan, who provide around 82 percent of the country's total aid, are preparing the CAS in order to harmonise their development support activities.