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Household survey focuses on food security

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The ongoing Household Income and Expenditure Survey is giving special emphasis to gauging Bangladesh’s food security in keeping with the global food shortage sown by the pandemic and turbocharged by the Ukraine war.

In Bangladesh, food inflation has been spiralling, leaving many in the poor and low-income groups to cut back on their food intake.

This time, the survey, which is conducted every five years but was delayed by two years for the pandemic, introduced eight questions that inform whether the person has access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.

Households from 14,400 thanas will be asked whether they went without eating for an entire day, skipped meals or cut back on their food intake in the past 12 months for want of money.

The number of food items has increased from 149 to 265 and non-food products and services from 216 to 441, according to the planning ministry’s document.

The survey, which is being conducted digitally for the first time, will be carried out throughout the year to get an idea of the state of poverty in the country and how Bangladesh is faring in terms of Sustainable Development Goals.

“This year, a strong monitoring system has been put in place to increase the quality of information,” said the planning ministry document.

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics conducted two telephonic surveys during the pandemic to assess the poverty situation.

From the in-person survey of 14,000 households, the government found the poverty rate has increased to 29.4 percent from 20 percent.

This is lower than what the think tanks concluded after their independent surveys. They found the poverty rate was 40 to 42 percent.

For instance, the Power and Participation Research Centre and Brac Institute of Governance and Development inferred from their surveys that about 3.7 crore people or 22 percent of the population became poor during the first wave of the pandemic, taking the poverty rate to 42.5 percent.

Planning Minister MA Mannan has acknowledged that the poverty rate has increased during the pandemic.

In 2019, the poverty rate was 20 percent but it jumped to 30-35 percent during the pandemic and then dropped.

“The Russia-Ukraine War, on the other hand, has disrupted the descent. We want the rate to be below 20 percent, but I believe it may rise,” Mannan told Point Media BD.

“We [the government] are chasing growth and not welfare. But we won’t sacrifice growth.”

Mannan went on to cite the expansion of social safety net programmes and the universal pension schemes to further his point.

“To continue these programmes, we need a huge investment. But where can we find it? It is possible if we can raise wealth and get more tax.”

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