Mobile Banking Improving Rural Economy


Mobile Banking Improving Rural Economy

mobile banking

The economy of Bangladesh has grown at a rapid rate over the past years, driven by the remarkable growth of the ready-made garment (RMG) sector. Mobile banking puts an immense impact on the economy of rural households through its fast and affordable cost of money transferring options. But to keep pace with the growing economy, vocational training programmes in such growing sectors can reduce skill gaps and improve income and employment potentials, experts said at a conference.

Mobile banking improved the economy of rural households and they reduced borrowing, increased savings and saw gains in health, education and agricultural productivity, said Prof Jonathan Morduch of New York University at the conference titled “Seeds of Change in the Garment Industry”. The conference was jointly organized by International Growth Center (IGC), Innovations for Poverty Action and the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University on 16 July 2017 at a city hotel.

“They also saved more and were less likely to be poor. Overall, the results suggest that mobile banking has an insurance function. It increases the welfare of rural households but has mixed effects on the welfare of migrant workers,” said Prof Morduch while presenting his paper titled “Poverty and Migration in the Digital Age: Experimental Evidence on Mobile Banking in Bangladesh”.

According to another recent study titled “Overcoming barriers to female managers in the RMG sector”, more than three-quarters of sewing operators are women but at the same time, number of female sewing supervisors is only fiver percent. The study prepared and presented by Prof Christopher Woodruff of the University of Oxford, also revealed that, in last 25 years economy of Bangladesh grown high with the remarkable growth of RMG sector.

Three other papers titled ‘On-The-Job Training Increases Employment for Rural Poor in the Manufacturing Sector: Experimental Evidence from Bangladesh’ by Prof Abu Shonchoy of the New York University, Monitoring and Improvement in Physical Working Conditions: Evidence from The Accord Initiative in Bangladesh by Dr. Atonu Rabbani of the University of Dhaka and ‘Consequences of Imperfect Information about building safety and garment workers and factories’ by Laura Boudreau of the University of California Berkeley were also presented at the conference.

“The progress was generally slower for the types of problems that require larger fixed costs,” said Dr. Rabbani in his presentation. Prof Abu Shonchoy’s study shows that vocational training programmes in growing sectors can reduce skill gaps and improve income and employment potentials.

President of the Bangladesh Employers’ Foundation (BEF) Mr. Salahuddin Kasem Khan was the chief guest and Chief Executive Officer of the Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute (BFTI) Mr. Ali Ahmed was the special guest in the programme.

In his speech, Mr. Khan said that RMG sector is playing a key role in the economic growth of Bangladesh and research in this area is very important. “I think such researches would also help add value to this important sector,” he added.

BIGD co-organised Public Policy and Governance in South Asia Conference in Nepal


BIGD co-organised
Public Policy and Governance in South Asia Conference in Nepal

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Public policy, which tends to change the society, needs to be public in process and outcome. Although there are less opportunities of studying public policy in South Asia but there are some hope also. The academicians, researchers and policy makers need to be involved in public policy and coordination among organizations of South Asian countries, experts said at the policy conference in Nepal.

“There is a huge demand of studying public policy but the opportunities are too less in Bangladesh. However, the optimism lies in the fact that there is a growth in recognition at the central policy quarters about the importance and utility of studying Public Policy" said Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director of BIGD while presenting his paper at the conference along with Sumaiya kabir Talukdar, Research Associate of BIGD at the session titled Building academic strength in public policy making in South Asia. The session was chaired by Prof. Dr. Shiva Lal Bhusal, Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Tribhuvan University where Subash KC, Dean and Professor, Kathmandu University School of Management was the panelist.
BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), Nepal Administrative Staff College (NASC); Niti Foundation, Nepal; The Asia Foundation, Nepal; Institute of Public Enterprises (IPE), India; and Think Tank Initiatives (TTI), India jointly organized “Policy Discourse and Research Conference on Public Policy and Governance in South Asia” on 10-11 July 2017 in Kathmandu at Nepal.

Dr. Shanawez Hossain, Research Fellow & Head, Urban, Climate Change and Environment Cluster of BIGD presented his paper titled, Governing cities: the challenge of providing transport services to burgeoning urban populations of Dhaka’ in the session on Public Sector Governance. The session was chaired by Mr. Kedar Bahadur Adhikari, Secretary, Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD), Nepal and Dr. Prakash C Bhattarai, Professor University of Kathmandu was a discussant.

“We must make public policies both public in process and public in outcome" said Dr. Samar Verma, Senior Specialist of International Development Research Centre (IDRC) at the Inauguration of the conference. “Policies are made to bring changes in the society” said Dr. Tirtha Khaniya, Vice Chancellor of Tribhuvan University at the session. Mr. Bhola Thapa, Registrar Kathmandu University hope involvement of academia in the policy making is necessary.

While presenting the souvenir at the Inauguration Mr. Punya Prasad Neupane, Executive Director, NASC said, “Our Strength lies in the collaboration and Coordination. I thank and welcome all the delegates from India and Bangladesh, representatives of different eminent organizations, Media and NASC family”.

"Trade is not only about volume or worth but also the value addition. The immense trade prospects between India, Nepal and Bangladesh still remain unexplored." Said R.K. Mishra, Director, IPE at the session titled Regional Policy Dialogue and Policy network in South Asia where Dr. Hafeez was a panelist and chaired by Punya Prasad Neupane.

This academic discourse and conference intends to bring scholars, policy makers and emerging researchers into a forum initiate discussion and sharing experiences on how South Asia should strengthen its institutional capacity in policy making and governance through academic discourse. Researchers and policy makers from Bangladesh, India and Nepal presented papers in sessions on Public Sector Governance, Corporate Governance and Public Finance, Issues in Public Policy, Accountability and Socio-political Issues. 

Decision-taking process expedited through e-filing, experts say at the Development Economics Conference


Decision-taking process expedited through e-filing 
Experts say at the Development Economics Conference

"Decision-taking process is getting expedited now as e-filing is taking place in 59 districts. But bringing more transparency in this process, mutual accountability of the people involved in the process will have to be ensured," said Dr. Mashiur Rahman while speaking at the Development Economics Conference jointly organised by BRAC Institute of Governance and Developments (BIGD), BRAC University and International Growth Centre (IGC), at a city hotel on 12 March, 2017.

Prime Minister’s Economic Advisor Dr. Rahman said efficient officials are needed in the government offices for formulation of right policies and their implementation. Otherwise, it is not possible to implement the government's plans properly, he said, adding that at the same time emphasis will have to be given on taking decision quickly.

First and second sessions of the conference were chaired by Dr Shamsul Alam, member of the General Economics Division of the Planning Commission.  

BIGD IGC ConferenceDr. Wahid Abdallah, Research Fellow of BIGD is presenting his paper at the Conference
Dr. Minhaj Mahmud, Research Fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) in his research paper 'Infrastructure and Well-Being: Employment Effects of Jamuna Bridge in Bangladesh' showed that several numbers of mega projects are changing rural economies and they are helping in the market integration. Infrastructure developments like a bridge over the river Jamuna are integrating economic factors in Bangladesh that are helping the economy to grow, He said.

Along with the ongoing economic development process the government needs to focus its attention on several other sectors like improving industrial sector, facing catastrophe due to climate change, increasing skill in revenue collection and bringing changes in bureaucracy.

Dr. Asadul Islam an Associate Professor of Monash University presented a paper on 'Social Network, Referrals and Technologies Adoption: Evidence from Randomized Field Experience’ in the conference. He showed that information technology adoption among rural people can increase productivity and can also provide right-time information to farmers about using seeds, plantation and use of instruments for mechanised farming.

In the second session Adnan Khan of IGC presented his paper on 'Incentivizing Bureaucrats through Performance-Based Postings' and Dr. Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak of Yale University presented on 'General Equilibrium Effects of Emigration on Rural Labor Markets'.

The last session chaired by Dr. Mashiur Rahman, was also marked by three research papers presented by scholars from Ohio State University, Harvard University and of BIGD.
Emily Breza of Harvard University in her research paper on 'Scarcity at the End of the Month - A Field Experiment with Garment Factory Workers in Bangladesh' said through removing bottlenecks in mobile financial transactions among garment workers it is possible to help them in proper money transfer among their family members. Wage payment through electronic system, particularly to bank accounts, encourages workers to save, she added.

Joyce Chen of Ohio State University in her paper on 'Migration and Climate Change: Environmental Vulnerability and Location Choice in Bangladesh' has shown that Bangladesh's coastal people are badly affected due to climate change consequences. She said people are migrating to another places and some who are not migrating are fighting against the changed environment calamities like salinity, drought and others.
Dr. Wahid Abdallah, Research Fellow of BIGD in his research paper 'Electronic Filing System, Bureaucratic Efficiency and Public Service Delivery: Evidence from Bangladesh' suggested for adopting electronic filing systems in the public offices like deputy commissioner’s office.

Among others the conference was attended by renowned economists, academicians, civil society members and senior public officials from home and abroad.

In democracy people’s trust is crucial, Dr. Gowher Rizvi said at regional conference on GPMS


In democracy people’s trust is crucial
Dr. Gowher Rizvi said at regional conference on Government Performance Management System

"In democracy trust of people in government is very crucial. When any government does not enjoy the trust of the people, democracy deteriorates," said Prime Minister's International Affairs Adviser Professor Dr. Gowher Rizvi. People become cynical if they cannot trust the government, when quality of service declines, people loses confidence and legitimacy of the government erodes, he added as the Chief Guest of a regional conference on Government Performance Management System (GPMS) held on 22 January 2017 at a city hotel.

Dr. Rizvi claimed that in any criteria performance of the Bangladesh government has improved. He said governance is not about the economic performance but the quality of life, freedom and cultural activities. He added that the government links with citizens was established through service delivery and "if service delivery is good, government achieves the trust of people (and on the other hand) when the quality of service declines, people lose their confidence in government".

The regional conference was organized with an aim to learn from each other and share best practices jointly by the cabinet division of the government and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University with support of the World Bank.

Mr. Md. Abul Kalam Azad, Principal Coordinator, Sustainable Development Goals and Dr. Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury, Principal Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office addressed the event as Special Guests. Mr. Mohammad Shafiul Alam, Cabinet Secretary, chaired the conference.

Mr. Ravindra Devagunam, Director, PMANDU, Malaysia; Dr. Prajapati Trivedi, Former Secretary, Performance Management Division, India; Mr. Chencho, Head of Government Performance Management Division (GPMD), Prime Minister’s office of Bhutan and Mr. N M Zeaul Alam, Secretary, (Coordination and Reforms) Cabinet Division of Bangladesh made presentations on their country's perspective at the conference.

Senior public servants of the country, representatives from India, Malaysia and Bhutan, and mainstream media took part in the daylong conference aimed to share experiences on public service delivery.

The main goal of this conference is to convene government officials, practitioners, and leading scholars to take stock and collectively envision current and future innovations in public sector performance management, leadership, and governance. Against the backdrop of GPMS implementation in Bangladesh, the conference will seek to foster peer learning and exchange of experiences among practitioners of performance management between South Asia Region (SAR) countries on performance management as the most adequate tool for policy dialogue and emulation, given the regional political economy.

Local MPs will not interfere in the workings of local governance institutions, says Mashiur Rahman Ranga


Local MPs will not interfere with the workings of local governance institutions
- says State Minister Mashiur Rahman Ranga
National Seminar on Local Governance Programme Sharique held
Clash between the Member of Parliament and elected local government officials is the main barrier to ensuring services to the people, said Mashiur Rahman Ranga, State Minister for Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives. He made the remarks while addressing a national conference on Local Governance Programme of Sharique project as the chief guest jointly organized by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), HELVETAS Swiss Interco operation, Bangladesh and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) in a hotel of the city on December 7, 2016.
Sharique Conference 2016
He said "There is no clash between Members of Parliament and locally elected government representatives to provide good services to the people. These components should work complementing each other for the betterment of the country." Local MPs will not interfere with the workings of local governance institutions, he added.
"Our government is working to strengthen and empower the local government. We need more time to ensure the empowerment of the local government beyond the party interest. As part of our empowerment of the local government, we have already ensured accountability to finish the project in due time," said Mashiur Rahman Ranga.
State minister for LGRD also said they will discuss the increase of the honorarium of the elected members of local government and create new posts for local government. He also advised to work for increasing revenue in their own way as they can spend more for the people.
Emphasizing on the local government system Mani Shankar Aiyer, former Panchayet Minister of India said that “Both democracy and development facilitate each other. If development is not equitable it will pose a threat to democracy. Hence what is required is inclusive growth through inclusive governance and this can be done by allowing more autonomy to local government. The former member of Lok Shabha and Rajya Shabha in India also shared experience of the performance and challenges of the local government of different Indian provinces. He also stressed the need for greater participation of women in local government to bring equitable development. He also said "It's a big challenge to coordinate the root level elected member with government. The successful government can manage this."
Attending as the Special Guest, Ambassador of Switzerland to Bangladesh Christian Fotsch praised Bangladesh for ensuring the rights of women to vote so early. Though his country gained independence almost 400 years ago, the right to vote for the women was ensured only in 1971.
The programme was attended by Mr. Md. Shah Kamal, Secretary, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD, Kaspar Grossenbacher, Country Director of HELVETAS Swiss Interco operation, Bangladesh; Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar, Country Representative, The Hunger Project, Dr. Tofail Ahmed, local governance expert and Ms. Melina Papageorgiou Trippolini, Programme Manager of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), among others. Other participants in the programme included academics, elected representatives from Sharique working areas and NGO partners active in local governance sector.
The event was held to celebrate ten years (2006-2016) of Sharique and also to launch a step-by-step guide that has captured Sharique’s ten years of experience in the local governance sector. The objective of launching this guide is to make the practical lessons learned from the programme available to other stakeholders, including Union Parishad themselves, as well as a range of public and non-governmental partners. The guidance is designed to offer systematic tips and advice to improve accountability, citizen’s participation and effectiveness in development planning and budgeting at the Union Parishad level.
In the second half of the day-long event three presentations were made on the role of Union Parishad in disaster management by Mr. Md. Shah Kamal, on budget coverage of Upazila and Union Parishad by Mr. Md. Habibur Rahman, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Finance and on sources of revenue of Union Parishad by Mr. Nurul Islam, Research Officer, NILG. A panel discussion and feedback session were held under the facilitation of Mr. Md. Shah Kamal in which locally elected representatives shared their experiences on the themes presented earlier.