Poverty Lines and Poverty Counts in Bangladesh
Bangladesh has featured quite prominently in discussion of methodological issues involved in poverty calculation, and some effort has been devoted to building capacity to measure poverty in Bangladesh. However, the latest estimates of poverty and poverty trends diverge widely. This paper reviews the methods and data used in these and other recent calculations of poverty lines in Bangladesh. Poverty line calculations for Bangladesh have been made using Food Energy Intake, Direct Calorie Intake, Cost of Basic Needs, and Unit Value based Consumer Price Index methods. A wide range of poverty lines and consequent poverty counts arises, with somewhat different spatial patterns and trends over time. Our implementation of a Cost of Basic Needs method slightly closer to the standard method, exploration of the different methods and data, and comparison with other measures of welfare suggests that we can have no confidence that current poverty calculations provide welfare aggregates measured by a constant yardstick, rather than variations in that yardstick. Hence, we do not know what has been happening to poverty, and cannot draw conclusions about whether recent trends and policies have been pro-poor or not. Given this unsatisfactory situation we must be sceptical that capacity to measure poverty in Bangladesh has indeed been developed.