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Bangladesh Priorities: Poverty, Sulaiman and Misha

Within the area of extreme poverty, the most promising strategy is “graduation”, which involves helping recipients through a variety of methods and over a particular time sequence. In total, each taka spent on graduation programs in Bangladesh could achieve two takas of social good, allowing participants to save for the future and, ultimately, escape extreme poverty.

“Tackling poverty is clearly one of the crucial issues for Bangladesh,” said Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, President of the Copenhagen Consensus Center. “The question is whether it is done most effectively. Research for Bangladesh Priorities indicates that there may other, smarter ways to help.”

Strategy Taka of total benefits per taka spent
Unconditional cash transfers 0.8
Livelihood programs 1
Ultra-poor graduation programs 1.9

In graduation programs, participants first receive a small gift of cash or food, which eases the stress of daily survival and allows them to start saving. After that, they receive an asset, maybe a cow or a goat, along with basic financial and technical education. This component often involves animal-husbandry training delivered by a veterinarian. Many graduation programs also provide healthcare support so that participants will not be forced to sell assets in the event of an emergency. Finally, participants get a confidence boost through social training—an important factor for escaping poverty that is often overlooked.

“The most critical aspect in reducing extreme poverty through targeted interventions is how sustainable these improvements are,” said Munshi Sulaiman the lead author and an economist with BRAC International. “Children from ultra-poor households should be able to achieve enough human capital that they are not classified as ‘poor’ when they become adults.”

Copenhagen Consensus experts believe that there should be more study of the long-term impacts of livelihood and cash transfer programs in Bangladesh. But based on their research, graduation seems the most promising of these three strategies.