Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bangladesh needs farm growth to cut poverty: World Bank

Reuters: Bangladesh should aim for growth in its agricultural sector of at least 4 percent a year if it is to achieve the objective of halving extreme poverty by 2015, the World Bank said. "Achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving poverty to 26.5 percent by 2015 will require a growth rate of at least 4.0 percent in agriculture and 7.0 percent in the non-farm sector," it said in its latest World Development Report.

Growth in the agricultural sector was just 3.18 percent in the fiscal year to June. Nearly 80 percent of Bangladesh's 140 million people live in rural areas. Poverty in Bangladesh was primarily a rural phenomenon, the report said, with 53 percent of the rural population classified as poor, comprising about 85 percent of all the country's poor.

The agricultural and rural sectors have suffered from "neglect and underinvestment over the past 20 years," the report said. It said agriculture could offer pathways out of poverty if efforts were made to increase productivity in staple foods.

Pointing out that land was becoming "a scarce commodity" in Bangladesh, the World Bank report said there was a need to review land administration, ownership distribution, rights and titles, and land use policy.

Turning to rural services, it said improving physical and social infrastructure -- roads, electricity, communication, water and sanitation, health and education -- in rural areas was fundamental for promoting employment opportunities and welfare. "Bangladesh has a long way to go to meet infrastructure needs, such as electricity, which is only available to 15 percent of villages," the report said.

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