THE strategies for poverty alleviation and development followed by the countries in Asia and the Pacific region have high relevance for Bangladesh where more than 80 per cent of its people have a rural existence and the majority of them remain below the poverty line. Besides, the rural areas of the country are also the least developed in sharp contrast to the urban areas. Thus, there is a powerful case indeed to take far greater developmental initiatives in the rural areas and it is in this sphere that the government perhaps has the most important role to play. In respect of poverty alleviation activities, the government has a participatory role through its own micro-credit giving organisation as well as other programmes designed to mitigate the sufferings from extreme poverty. The non governmental organisations (NGOs) are also doing a reasonable job in extending micro-credits and carrying out of multi-faceted programmes to address the problems of poverty.
But, the government can do a great deal more to accelerate developmental activities in the rural areas. For this purpose, it should be willing to channel far greater resources to the rural areas to expressly build supporting infrastructures for the rural economy. The budget should indicate a move to shift resources to rural areas. But worries are also there about how far the same can be truly spent for the uplift of the rural economy. There are reasons to fear that the same could be wasted on satisfying political activists and other political cronies rather than going into actual projects like road building, training programmes, irrigation projects, new agricultural products with an export dimension, etc., that only can justify the greater spending in the rural areas.
The government must not only be resolved to build infrastructures in the rural areas, it should also decide to create a strong local government system also to that end. As it is, there is hardly any good local governance at the grassroots level from the indecisiveness of the government itself about what model of local government to select finally that would ensure its political influence in the rural areas. The pressing need is to overcome this indecisiveness in a fair and open-minded manner and, more significantly, to empower and enable the local bodies to receive and spend much greater funds with a vision to help the real progress of the rural economy.
Mustafa Jasim Ahmed