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New Policy Responses to Extreme Poverty in Bangladesh: What difference does it make?

The main finding of the research undertaken recently on extreme poverty was that the condition of extreme poverty differed qualitatively from the condition of ‘normal’ poverty1. It also highlighted important differences between extreme poverty that is systemic and other forms that result from chance or random occurrence. These findings led to the development of two key policy messages. First, the distinctive nature of extreme poverty meant it required its own specific policy response. Second, the action research components of the research demonstrated that it was possible to support extreme poor people and help improve their wellbeing. The 7th Five Year Plan of the Government of Bangladesh has also acknowledged the distinctive nature of extreme poverty and outlined special measures to address extreme poverty.     

The inclusion of special measures to address extreme poverty in the 7th plan is closely aligned with the Government of Bangladesh’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 1 - the eradication of extreme poverty.  Bangladesh has made considerable progress in eradicating both poverty and extreme poverty, and indications suggest its current progress against SDG-1 is positive.  

The current proposal intends to track the policy processes and progress of the special measures highlighted in the 7th Five Year Plan in an effort to attribute potential reductions in extreme poverty. 

In order to track progress, we propose a series of linked research activities 

• Research activity 1: we will analyse available secondary data in order to ascertain whether or not the inclusion of special measures in the 7th Five Year Plan has resulted in additional policy responses to extreme poverty. This will include an analysis of government budgetary allocations for extreme poverty, Annual Development Plans, overviews of extreme poverty and social protection programmes, and a review of key government policy statements on extreme poverty.


• Research activity 2: we will conduct 15-20 semi structured interviews with relevant stakeholders, purposively sampled on the basis of their experience or responsibility in terms of extreme poverty policy formulation and implementation. This will include key policy makers, representatives from both the donor community and civil society.

• Research activity 3: we will opportunistically look for and analyse data from micro surveys that are available and fit for purpose. 

This is an opportune time to carry out the research. The 7th Five Year Plan is currently at its half-way point and therefore mature enough to see if the special measures have resulted in new policy developments or commitments that have resulted in reductions in extreme poverty. If on the other hand, our research finds no new policy commitments and no impact upon extreme poverty, the research will be an invaluable advocacy tool that can be used to engage with key policy makers. In both scenarios, the proposed research will make a significant and unique contribution to efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. 

The project is being implemented in collaboration with the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), University of Bath, UK. Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) of DFID is funding the study through the University. Dr. Zulfiqar Ali, Senior Research Fellow, BIDS is the PI at BIDS and Prof Joe Devine and Prof. Geof Wood are the PIs at the University of Bath, UK. 

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