Friday, October 16, 2009

Disinformation and the Daily Star

Disinformation becomes a habit.

Zafar Sobhan, editor of the truth-economizing 'Daily Star' wrote a totally misleading article in the Yale Global Online (

"Throughout the downturn, the government has continued to subsidize the agricultural sector, thus ensuring both food security and a living wage for 60 percent of the population still involved in agriculture, as well as other targeted subsidies aimed at minimizing the worst of the fallout." This is what he maintains.

Yet the World Food Program has called the current situation a "nutritional emergency". Two million children aged under five in Bangladesh are suffering from acute malnutrition. The WFP has a funding shortfall of $4 billion worldwide; in Bangladesh, it planned to help 6.9 million "completely destitute" people this year: it reckons that around 4 million fell through ( .

Here's another old chestnut. "GDP growth in 2009 is estimated to be roughly 5 percent for the second year in a row, down only modestly from the 6 percent plus growth rate that the country had been enjoying since the mid-nineties." (A 1% decline in growth rate is modest? What would be an immodest decline, then?)

I have heard this ad nauseam. According to the AFP, "Despite economic growth of six percent a year in the past five years the benefits have not trickled down to the poorest." Indeed, in an earlier blog entry, I observed how income inequality in the 90s, according to the World Bank, increased, hurting the poor. "In Bangladesh per capita GDP grew at about 2 percent a year during the 1990s, and poverty declined quite slowly. Between 1983 and 1996 the share of people in extreme poverty fell
from 40.9 percent to 35.6 percent—and the share in moderate poverty from 58.5 percent to 53.1 percent. Rural poverty in particular remains very high.Why the slow decline? Part of the answer lies in rising inequality, in both urban and rural sectors, especially between 1992 and 1996, when the Gini coefficient rose from
0.26 to 0.31. Depending on the poverty measure used, a fifth to a third of the potential poverty reduction from growth may have been lost because of higher inequality. If inequality had not increased, the poverty rate would have been about
7–10 percentage points lower in 1995–96 than it actually was (

So much for Zafar Sobhan's obsession with growth rates.

In 2008, food prices doubled, and 7.5 million people fell below the poverty line - and they have not recovered.

45% of the people live below the poverty line - a statistic that never figures in Sobhan's article. Apparently, he's not very concerned about the "ultra-poor", "the ones micro-credit institutions wouldn't dream of looking at," according to John Aylief, country head of WFP.

It appears that Sobhan is pursuing a brief for globalisation, and not its discontents: exactly what you'd expect from a Yale Global Fellow for 2009.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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