A man uses a hand grinder machine to sand a cylinder for construction purpose in Chittagong on March 7, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)
DHAKA – South Asia has suffered an unprecedented combination of shocks over the past three years, and moving from recovery to growth requires ensuring that economic development is inclusive, said the World Bank in its latest regional economic update.
Over the past two decades, sustained economic growth in S. Asia has lifted some 250m people out of extreme poverty and improved living standards. However, economic growth has not benefited all groups equally, and social progress remains elusive, said the global lender
The report "Expanding Opportunities: Toward Inclusive Growth" is the subject of a two-day conference here that opens Tuesday, organized by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) and the World Bank, to discuss South Asia's economic outlook.
Over the past two decades, sustained economic growth in South Asia has lifted some 250 million people out of extreme poverty and improved living standards, said the global lender.
However, economic growth has not benefited all groups equally, and social progress remains elusive, it said.
"Bangladesh has made significant progress in bridging gaps between low and high opportunity groups, particularly in the education sector. However, much remains to be done," said Abdoulaye Seck, World Bank country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan.
He noted that South Asian countries must continue to reduce socio-economic disparities as they lead to differences in access to jobs, earnings, consumption, and welfare, and impact overall growth."
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"Reducing inequality of opportunity and increasing economic mobility in South Asia is important because it is an essential part of broadening the tax base," said Hans Timmer, World Bank chief economist for South Asia.
"Therefore, eliminating obstacles to mobility is not merely a long-term agenda, but should be a central part of current reform programs that aim to make the fiscal outlook more sustainable, and help South Asia achieve its full potential," the chief economist said.
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To this end, the World Bank report recommends continuing to improve the quality of primary education and expand access to secondary and higher education, evaluate and strengthen affirmative action policies targeted to "low opportunity" groups, and policies to improve the business climate for small and medium enterprises, who account for the bulk of job opportunities for the less well-off.
In addition, reducing barriers to labor mobility can have a powerful equalizing impact, as urban areas tend to offer more opportunities for social mobility, it mentioned.