Urban poverty deserves more attention: economist

The government needs to pay attention to urban poverty alleviation and policymakers need to take long-term and sustainable measures to combat the problem, a leading economist said yesterday.

“We lack sustainable measures to eradicate extreme poverty in the urban slum areas. Instead of taking intermediate steps to eliminate poverty, the government needs to make long-term policies to fight poverty at large,” Binayak Sen said.

“Simultaneously, we have to overcome the present culture of ‘tokenism’ in programmes taken by the government to alleviate poverty. Most of the time, the allocations are very poor and hence, do not make any difference.”

The government needs to rearrange the size of allocations it makes under different safety net programmes, pointed out Sen, research director of BIDS.

He suggested the government ensure better access to capital and healthcare, so the urban poor living in slums can improve their livelihood and quality of life.

He also stressed the need to create sustainable income generating activities for these people.

Sen was presenting the insights from the midterm evaluation of a project titled Breaking the Cycle of Urban Chronic Poverty, jointly organised by the Dustha Shasthya Kendra (DSK), a non-government organisation, Shiree and UK Aid at the Samabai Bhaban in Dhaka.

The DSK-Shiree project conducted the survey on 1404 people living in Kuril and Kamrangirchar in Dhaka, where the project spent Tk 28,000 for each person over a period of two years.

The survey found that the additional income has made a qualitative impact on the targeted people, improving their standard of living. It also found that the notion of extreme poverty is gradually disappearing in these areas although a qualitative difference is yet to be perceived.