Elite Perceptions of Poverty in Bangladesh

Naomi Hossain, The University Press, 2005, xvii, 173 p, figs, tables, ISBN : 984051735X, $20.00 (Includes free airmail shipping)

Elite Perceptions of Poverty in Bangladesh/Naomi Hossain

Contents: Glossary. 1. Introduction. 2. Studying elite perceptions of poverty. 3. Separate worlds? how the elite perceive poverty and the poor. 4. Economic growth and other solutions to poverty in a poor country. 5. The lack of a threat from poverty or the poor. 6. The lack of faith in the state. 7. The NGO alternative. 8. The significance of private charity. 9. Conclusion. Bibliography. Index.

"While 21 century Bangladesh is not the famine-stricken 'basket-case' of the 1970s, it remains plagued by mass, severe poverty. Thanks to improved social services and modest gains from economic growth, a declining proportion of Bangladeshis live in poverty. But growth has been far kinder to the rich, and with inequality on the rise and vast numbers still struggling for survival, this book asks the following: is the grinding everyday poverty experienced by millions of Bangladeshis an urgent priority for the politicians, businessmen, bureaucrats and others who make up the Bangladeshi elite?

Based on original research, this book shows that poverty is not a high priority for the Bangladeshi elite, and attempts to explain why. The findings are surprising. Unlike comparable groups elsewhere, the contemporary elite is neither ignorant nor callous about poverty in Bangladesh: they are aware of the problem, show signs of sympathy towards the poor, and believe that tackling poverty is partly in their own interests. Yet their preferred solutions to poverty suggest it is not a priority: the problems of the poor compete for their attention -- often unsuccessfully -- with more prominent concerns.

Why is poverty not an urgent elite priority? The book offers three explanations. First, and most importantly, because poverty presents no imminent threat to elite well-being through, for example, crime, epidemic disease, revolt or insurrection. Second, lack of faith in the state discourages support for stronger state action on poverty. And third, the elite appear to believe that appropriate action is already being taken on poverty, including through NGO interventions and private charity.

The book highlights the importance of the character of the national elite and their perceptions of poverty in determining the urgency with which poverty is tackled by public policy. It is a must read literature for development practitioners, courses in development studies and the Bangladeshi English reading elite." (jacket)

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