Proper housing for the people living in urban poverty is a prerequisite to achieve SDG-11
Experts says at the National Housing Convention

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People’s migrations towards urban settlement in search for a better livelihood are increasing day by day. Every year more than 5 lakh people come to live in the Dhaka city from all over the country. While the population of the city is increasing every day, one in every three of its inhabitant’s lives in the slums is deprived of basic facilities. In this context, proper housing for the people living in urban poverty has become a prerequisite to achieve sustainable development goal or SDG-11 (pertaining to shelter and settlement), and to ensure planned urbanisation and continued economic progress of the country.

Experts and public representatives expressed these views at a programme titled National Convention on Housing Finance for People Living in Urban Poverty' held on October 15, 2017 at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka. The Urban Development Programme of BRAC, in partnership with the National Housing Authority (NHA), Urban Development Directorate (UDD), Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP), Municipal Association of Bangladesh (MAB) and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) organised the convention. 

Chief Guest of the convention Engineer Mosharraf Hossain MP, Minister, Ministry of Housing and Public Works said, 81 per cent of houses of the country are in the rural areas and 80 per cent of these are of low quality. The country is losing 235 hectares of farmland every day, which is transformed for making residence. He told that the government has already formulated a law titled "Urban and Regional Planning Act, 2016" for making a planned housing system not only in the urban areas but also in the rural areas. "Under the law, rural people will have to take permission from union parishad chairman or municipality mayor or upazila nirbahi officer for constructing house," he added. 

Engr. Mosharraf said the government has a plan to construct about 10,000 apartments for the slum people to ensure their basic needs. "As the population pressure in the city is increasing, it shows that more slums are being developed. Thus, it is not possible to deal with the housing problems. It has to be closed," he added. The minister also called for making a planned housing system in the both urban and rural areas to stop housing on arable lands.To solve the problem, he suggested that BRAC may collaborate with the government in this initiative, the housing Minister said.

Chaired by BRAC's Senior director for Strategy, Communications and Empowerment Dr. Asif Saleh, the event were also attended by Secretary to the Housing and Public Works Ministry Md. Shahid Ullah Khandaker, Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Mr. Sayeed Khokon, Rajshahi city Mayor Mr. Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul, Barisal city Mayor Mr. Ahsan Habib Kamal, Bangladesh Institute of Planners General Secretary Prof. Dr. Md Akhtar Mahmud, BIGD Executive Director Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, MAB President Mr. Alhaj Md. Abdul Baten, Urban Development Directorate Director Dr. Khurshid Jabin Hossain Toufiq, and National Housing Authority Chairman and Additional Secretary Mr. Khandakar Akhtaruzzaman as Special Guests.

The aim of the convention was to establish multi-level partnerships for pro-poor city planning and housing financing to achieve the targets of National Housing Policy and SDG-11. A key note and three evidence-based housing models: BRAC Jhenaidah community-led housing model, UNDP Sirajganj housing model and NHA low-income housing model were presented at the convention.

The speakers focused on stronger collaboration between the government and non-governmental agencies and involving mayors, other public representatives and relevant actors to promote urban planning facilitating the people living in urban poverty and providing them with housing loan services. 

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Dr. Shanawez Hossain, Head Urban, Climate Change and Environment (UCCE) cluster of BIGD also attended the event as a panel discussant on the plenary session titled Partnership and Collaboration on Housing Finance. Advocate Azmat Ullah Khan, Adviser, Municipal Association of Bangladesh (MAB) presented the keynote paper, where Mohammad Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul, Mayor, Rajshahi City Corporation chaired the session.

Around 75 mayors including five city mayors attended the event. The 300 guests included representatives and officials from UNDP, Policy makers, Government and Non-Government stakeholders discussed on pro-poor city planning and housing financing solutions at the convention. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                     Media Coverage

Mobile Banking Improving Rural Economy

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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

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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 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 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.