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.
Administrative decentralization required to make Dhaka city liveable
igc bigd roundtable

Administrative decentralization is necessary to reduce pressure on Dhaka and make the city liveable. Many people will relocate from Dhaka if they get different facilities including good educational institutions, healthcare services and employment opportunity in other districts, said urban experts and economists in a roundtable.

The roundtable titled “Migration, Spatial Planning and Housing Pressure in Asia Mega Cities: Lessons for Dhaka” was jointly organized by International Growth Centre (IGC), A2I project under PMO and BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University on July 20, 2017 at the city.

Fourty four percent of the country's formal employments are in greater Dhaka, which is only one percent of the country's territory. Thirty-six percent of the country's urban population also lives in Dhaka, said Prof. Tony Venables, CBE of the University of Oxford while presenting a keynote paper titled “Migration, Spatial Planning and Housing Pressure in Asia Mega Cities: Lessons for Dhaka”, at the round table.

In his lecture, Prof. Venables spoke on the most challenging urban issues in Bangladesh – land use, planning and its enforcement, 'livable' and affordable housing in the wake of a rising middle class, and the efficient supply and sustainable management of public services, especially utilities, associated with rapid migration. He said that Bangladesh experienced faster urbanization than South Asia as a whole between 2000 and 2010 and according to the prediction it will be 45 percent in 2030 and 55 percent in 2050.

Prof. Venables has offered evidence from his work on how coordinated public policy is essential in addressing interrelated constraints to affordable urban housing. Poor land administration policies are responsible behind urban housing being prohibitive for low-income groups.

Executive Director of BIGD and Country Director of IGC, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman moderated the round table in the presence of Hossain Zillur Rahman, former caretaker government adviser; Wahiduddin Mahmud, renowned economist; Professor Emeritus of BRAC University Dr. Ainun Nishat; Professor of geography and environment department of Dhaka University AQM Mahbub and other urban experts and economists.

Dr. Ainun Nishat said, preference should be given to the flood action plan for preparing urbanization plan in Bangladesh. Dhaka's drainage system is very vulnerable as we are still continuing the drainage system from the British period. It is necessary to upgrade the system.

Hossain Zillur Rahman said that the urban development plan of Dhaka is not being implemented because of political interests. There is a lack of good governance in every level of the country. Although there are investments in infrastructure for the development of the country, there is hardly any investment in their management.

Wahiduddin Mahmud said, urban development is essential for the overall development of the country. Urbanization is important to reach the middle income country.

AQM Mahbub said although most of the raw materials of garments industry are supplied from other regions, 80 percent of the country's garment factories are located in Dhaka. And all the development of the country is centered on Dhaka. Emergency services are not available in rural and municipal areas. Decentralization of government services should also be done.
BIGD co-organised
Public Policy and Governance in South Asia Conference in Nepal

webslider nepal 1

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. 
Illicit money and illicit power are influencing the Public Procurement
Experts said at the 12th PPSC meeting

Illicit money and Illicit power are badly influencing public procurement. The procuring entities are facing various challenges during implementation of projects, especially at field level. Absence of a proper monitoring system of public procurement is one of the reasons, for which Bangladesh cannot ensure proper implementation of projects and its quality.

These were some of the observations of the participants at the 12th meeting of Public Private Stakeholders' Committee (PPSC) under Public Procurement Reform Project II of Central Procurement Technical Unit (CPTU) under Ministry of Planning. The meeting was held on the 8th June 2017 at the NEC Conference Room, Planning Commission Campus in the capital, which was facilitated by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University.

Team leader of the social accountability component of PPRP-II Dr. Mirza M Hassan presented the findings of the monitoring report of pilot projects completed in two districts - Rangpur and Sirajganj - by the citizens committees. He also proposed scaling up the project on a national level.

He said the citizens committees monitored the textbook print quality and distribution of text books in 28 schools in the two districts at the first day of the year. They also monitored 19 projects (11 road constructions and 8 school building constructions) in these areas where the committees failed to monitor two projects out of the 19 due to interference by socially and politically influential persons.

Beyond the engagement of the Citizen Committees, the project was also able to successfully mobilize local communities for monitoring projects which led to conceptual and strategic innovation of a Site Specific Citizen Monitoring idea which we plan to replicate nationally, he added.

Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) Secretary in Charge Md. Mofizul Islam, who also presided over the meeting, said, most of the citizens do not know that their money is being spent in public procurement. Increasing people’s awareness regarding public procurement will reduce the influence of Illicit money and Illicit power. The monitoring only by IMED personnel is not enough, and the citizens should have a role in monitoring the development projects. He added that proper monitoring of public procurement is an important issue for successful implementation of the projects. The government wants to ensure cent per cent transparency and accountability in public procurement.

In response to a question on formation of Citizens Committee he said, “Citizens committees should be formed with those persons, whose morals and ethics are above question. We need citizens' monitoring in purchasing of goods also, as we want to get value for money."

CPTU Director General Md. Faruque Hossain said there are various challenges in monitoring of the public projects by citizens committees, as there is no legal provision in this regard. If the government finds third party monitoring beneficial, the relevant rules will be changed to give it a legal basis.

Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD; Mr. ANM Mustafizur Rahman, World Bank; Dr. Kazi Ali Toufique, Research Director, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS); Mr. Ahmed Najmul Hussain, Administrative Director, BRAC; Engr. S. M. Khorshed Alam, Director, Bangladesh Association of Construction Industry; Mr. Ziaur Rahman, General Secretary, Economic Reporters’ Forum also made their valuable remarks and participated in discussion at the meeting. 

The Public-Private Stakeholders’ Committee (PPSC) has been formed under the auspices of the Public Procurement Reform Project-II (PPRP-II) with representatives from business community, think tanks, and civil society organizations along with government officials, to institutionalise external monitoring and citizen engagement in different stages of public procurement.
An empowered city government needed for Well-planned City
speakers said at a workshop on Equitable Economic Growth in Sylhet

SCC workshop

Participants at a workshop on Equitable Economic Growth in Sylhet City demanded to build Sylhet a planned city through the implementation of master plan prepared by Professor Jamilur Reza Chowdhury. The participants also demanded ensuring clean, healthy and hygienic environment, making open space for playground and other entertainment facilities. They also urged to make the citizens aware regarding their rights and responsibilities. They felt the need for an empowered city government to fulfill the aspirations of city dwellers.

The kick-off workshop was held under the joint work programme titled Promoting Equitable Economic Growth in Cities as part of a global campaign. BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and Sylhet City Corporation (SCC) with the support of Cities Alliance based in Brussels, jointly organized the workshop on May 24, 2017 in Sylhet.

Attending as the Chief Guest, Mayor Ariful Haq Chowdhury said that the public representatives allied with the ruling party get support from the Government but the other representatives do not and now it has become a culture which needs to be changed. Coordination and cooperation among the public offices and government organizations is essential before empowering the city corporation, he added. He proposed for a monthly coordination meeting and said that without coordination and cooperation, it is impossible to complete a single task.

Ajay Suri, Asian Regional Advisor, Cities Alliance; Consultant Dr. K. Rajivan, Dr. Shanawez Hossain, Research Fellow, BIGD and Team Leader of the Project; Mr. Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury, Head of Operations, BIGD; Engineer Ruhul Alam, Chief Engineer, Sylhet City Corporation also delivered their speeches in the event. The programme was moderated by BIGD’s Research Associate S M Gubair Bin Arafat.

Advocate Irfanujjaman Chowdhury, President, Committee of Concerned Citizens (CCC); Aminul Islam Chowdhury, Sammilita Sangskritic Jote; Nasim Hossain, Sylhet City President of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP); senior politician Barrister Aarash Ali; Gourango Patro, President, Adivasi Forum (Forum of Ethnic People); Professor Tahmina Islam, Department of Social Work, Shahajalal University of Science and Technology; senior journalist Ahmed Nur; City Corporation Counselor Sahanara Begum, Dinar Khan and others also shared their valued opinion and suggestions regarding different problems of the city and their short term and long term solutions.

Recognizing the roles of cities and the challenges they present in developing countries, the Cities Alliance, a global partnership for urban poverty reduction and hosted by the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), and BIGD have embarked on this project. The goals of this project are (i) to promote equitable access to public goods and services in context of cities’ specific needs and (ii) support growth trajectories increasingly characterized by equity, inclusion and environmental sustainability.

                                                                                                                                                                                                 Media Coverage

To provide more accountable service, we need City Governance
 – said Dr. Selina Hayat Ivy at a kick-off workshop

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"Most of the budget of the local government is spent by unelected officer, not by the elected representatives. Budget allocations to the elected public representatives should be increased as they are accountable to the people, where the accountability of a DC or MD is very low.” said Dr. Selina Hayat Ivy, Mayor, Narayanganj City Corporation (NCC) at a workshop titled Equitable Economic Growth in Narayanganj City.

This kick-off workshop organized under the joint work programme titled Promoting Equitable Economic Growth in Cities as part of a global campaign. BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and NCC with the support of Cities Alliance based in Brussels, jointly organized the workshop on May 18, 2017 at Narayanganj.

Dr. Ivy claimed for city governance and raised question, Why DESA, Titas, Police, Magistrates are not under the City Corporation? She urged all to tell the government, 'Give us city government'. If there is no city government, a city mayoral corporation will not be able to do much work. Now we have to request our magistrates, call the police, call to DPDC to get services. But in the system of city government, various organizations could work under an umbrella as a whole. In addition, when these will come under the elected representatives, they will be accountable to public to discharge these responsibilities either for the necessity of the citizen’s service or to keep popularity or due to the fear of the upcoming election.

She told that, these unelected officers need not to answer any questions of the mass people but a local government representative must have to and that is why it is high time to increase the power of local government. She added, though there are a lot of limitations, local government is trying to solve as much problems as they can.

Presenting the 'Institutional Enabling Environment Report (IEER)' Dr. Shanawez Hossain, Research Fellow, BIGD and Team Leader of the project said, 'Analyzing the political, functional and fiscal arrangements under which Narayanganj City Corporations (NCC) operates this project will assist in facilitating city-level policy actions for enhancing Local Economic Development (LED) which will ultimately promote equitable access to public goods and services."

Dr. Dhiraj Ajay Suri, Regional Advisor for Asia; K Rajivan; Advisor, Cities Alliance; Advocate Mahmudur Rahmna Habib, Chief Executive Officer, NCC and Muhammad Jahangir, Media personality were also present at the workshop among others.

Recognising the roles of cities and the challenges they present in developing countries, the Cities Alliance, a global partnership for urban poverty reduction and hosted by the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), and BIGD have embarked on this project. The goals of this project are (i) to promote equitable access to public goods and services in context of cities’ specific needs and (ii) support growth trajectories increasingly characterised by equity, inclusion and environmental sustainability.

                                                                                                     Media Coverage

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