Tuesday, August 14, 2018 | ePaper

Growing income gap poses risk for social unrest

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INCOME inequality between the top richest and bottom poorest is phenomenally widening in the country since the independence. The top five percent of Bangladesh's income earners have taken home 121 times more than the bottom five percent of the population in 2016, up from 31.5 times in 2010, meaning they have almost quadrupled their share in  the total national income in the last five years. Quoting a research finding, news media reported on Wednesday that during this period, the asset inequality between the top and the bottom five percent skyrocketed. 

The widening income gap is taking place mainly due to passing over of the control of the state and its resources to the hands of the rich and powerful at a time when chaos, corruption, indiscipline and grabbing of public resources are marginalizing the poor and the middle-income people. The government institutions now speak for the rich and powerful and work for them, while the rule of law is disappearing that sidetrack punishing criminals and launderers of state resources. Ordinary people are now denied of equal opportunity from the state.

More and more people are now falling outside mainstream economic activities. Policy makers are busy to take up plans that suit the party men and big business to amass wealth. Vulnerable groups and low-income people are no more the bigger beneficiaries at the center of development financing. Apart from income and asset inequalities, the research found 97 percent of the population suffers from one or the other form of vulnerabilities. There is an underbelly of the decent growth performance regrettably coupled with growing number of disadvantaged and marginalized people. The vulnerabilities of these people emanate from economic status, life cycle, location, gender, physical challenges and social stigma.

Individuals with no or little education find less opportunity for decent work while unemployment is higher among relatively higher-educated individuals coming from middle class families. One can get a job only having a powerful mouth to speak for him or her. The rural population continues to be left behind. The finding says Barisal is the worst-performing division while Chittagong Hill Tracts are highly vulnerable in terms of income generating activities. Average wealth of households in the area is much lower than the rural, urban and national averages. Wealth ownership and literacy rate is abysmal  among the religious and ethnic minorities.

We know vulnerability is most often associated with poverty, it can also arise in situations where people are isolated, insecure and defenseless. In our view, unless the ongoing development policy to buttress the rich at the cost of the poor has been changed, one can't expect significant improvement in the situation. But we can't also allow such income gap to grow with bigger risk for social unrest in future.


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