EDITORIAL: The rich getting richer

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) -  Income inequality disrupts progress

There is no doubt that Bangladesh has made tremendous progress in economic growth in the last few decades. But there is also the inescapable fact that income inequality in the country has gone up sharply. It's the wealthy and the powerful who have captured most of the benefits of economic growth in recent years, as studies carried out by research organisations have repeatedly shown. And more problematic is the fact that very little is being done to reduce this gap between the rich and poor, as reflected in our ranking (148th among 157 countries) in Oxfam's Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) Index 2018.

Needless to say, unequal distribution of income is a major threat to the country's economic and social progress. The national income share of the poorest 10 percent of the household population decreased from two percent in 2010 to 1.01 percent in 2016 whereas it increased for the richest 10 percent from 35.84 percent in 2010 to 38.16 percent in 2016. Along with this, lack of equal access to education and healthcare for all, limited employment opportunities, and rising youth unemployment, among other factors, are further fuelling inequality in our society.

There is an urgent need for increased public spending in the sectors of education, healthcare and social protection. But that is not all. State and other institutions have to be rescued from the grip of the rich and a system of transparency and accountability needs to be restored. The anarchy in the financial sector—with loan defaulters escaping unscathed and taxpayers ultimately paying the price—is a good example of the immense influence wielded by the wealthy in the country. The progress we have made as a country would not be possible without the contribution of the population as a whole. So why should the rich get most of the economic pie?

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