The title of this piece is not just a cliché, but also a fact. Over the past two decades, Bangladesh has been experiencing an impressive economic growth. Technically, we had already achieved the lower-middle-income status in 2015 by increasing our Gross National Income (GNI), and on March 16, 2018, the country fulfilled the eligibility requirements to graduate from “Least Developed Country” to “Developing Country”. But unfortunately, the benefits of all these achievements and the economic growth that we boast of bypassed the major portion of the population while the higher-income groups have been the main beneficiaries.

A report titled “Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) 2016,” published by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), shows that the rich-poor inequality in terms of wealth accumulation has been widening in the country. The poorest 5 percent had 0.78 percent of the national income in their possession back in 2010, and now their share is only 0.23 percent. By contrast, the richest 5 percent, who had 24.61 percent of the national income in 2010, now has a higher share—27.89 percent to be precise. The report also shows that the income share of the bottom half of the population used to be 20.33 percent of the national income in 2010 but it has now fallen to 19.24 percent. In other words, the income of people higher on the economic scale has increased since the last HIES was conducted in 2010. Particularly, the top 10 percent of the population now has a greater income share (38.16 percent) compared to what they had (35.84 percent) in 2010. On the contrary, the bottom 10 percent now has half (just 1.01 percent) the income share (2 percent) of what it had in 2010. (The Daily Star, Oct 18, 2017)

Although Bangladesh’s development in recent decades has been incredibly rapid, these statistics on widening inequality come as a rude reality check. The causes and factors behind this are multifaceted and complex. However, according to various studies, primary factors that deprive poor and vulnerable people of their most elementary rights and may lead to income inequality in Bangladesh include unequal access to education and employment opportunities, exploitation at workplace, low-wage jobs with scant benefits, high rates of youth unemployment, poor healthcare, corruption and lack of access to formal financial services such as credit, savings and insurance that higher income groups may take for granted.

Poverty and education are inextricably linked—quality education opens the gateway to better paying jobs. But owing to extreme poverty, many poor parents can’t afford to send their children to school because everyone has to earn something—even the children. Even if they are going to school regularly, they have to constantly struggle for their livelihoods, making it difficult for them to concentrate in the classroom. Moreover, due to financial and emotional pressures of food insecurity, unstable home environment, lack of healthcare and other factors, they face high levels of stress, which put them at a serious disadvantage in gaining the skills necessary to compete in the job market, eventually preventing them from rising on the social ladder. On the other hand, children born in rich families have an economic advantage, in terms of better education and access to opportunities, which in turn increases their chances of earning a higher income than their disadvantaged peers.

The reasons for inequality also include wage exploitations by big companies—keeping the wage of employees at the lower rungs of the hierarchy as low as possible is an inherent part of running a business and making a profit to maximise salaries and dividends for the executives and shareholders. For example, garment workers in Bangladesh are among the most exploited, as western buyers keep the prices of garments down. Industry experts are claiming that buyers do come back to place orders repeatedly, but every year they lower the price further. Oxfam also confirms in a report titled “Reward Work, Not Wealth” that it takes a CEO of the world’s top five fashion brands just four days to earn the same amount a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn over their lifetime.

In Bangladesh, there is another pervasive factor that also contributes to income inequality—lack of access to credit. While banks are funnelling loans worth billions of taka by violating banking rules and procedures to influential businessmen backed by the political leadership, many small businessmen and poor farmers/sharecroppers usually have no access to credit because of collateral requirements like land, building, etc. Even if they manage to get small loans, they live under the constant pressure of repayment. There have been many sad incidents like farmers selling off their cattle and other belongings just to repay instalment loans. Statistics show that access to credit for farmers is significantly low relative to their contribution to the GDP. In the 2013-14 FY, the share of agriculture in the GDP was around 16 percent, while agriculture’s share of advances in total stood at about 6 percent.

There is no denying the fact that rich people have an advantage in life. Income inequality is largely due to a lack of economic opportunity, especially for the people on the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder. Therefore, our leaders should start serving all people instead of excessively rewarding those at the top. If a government is sincere, honest and efficient, it can reduce income inequality through the tax and benefit system (i.e. by taxing the upper-income groups at higher rates) and spending the revenue in those sectors and areas such as free/subsidised healthcare and education/skill development scheme for lower-income groups, so that they can get access to jobs that are more productive and rewarding. Since agriculture is the lifeline of over 47 percent of the labour force, the government can help small and poor farmers by providing quality seeds, fertilisers and water at a discounted rate, introducing crop insurance scheme, improving infrastructure facilities (roads, highways, port, etc.) so that their cost of doing business decreases and income increases. Of course, the government has taken some initiatives in this regard, but those are not enough to improve the livelihood of the rural poor.

We must control inequality, not because the rich have much more than the poor but because it is destroying our moral conscience, fracturing the social fabric, and poisoning our politics. Research shows that when some people possess a great amount of wealth compared to others, some of them feel a sense of superiority and believe that their money can shield them from the consequences of their action. Therefore, for each and every citizen of Bangladesh to live in peace and security, we need to have policies in place that promote fairness and equity, because a happy, equal and just society will always achieve peace and prosperity.


Abu Afsarul Haider graduated from Illinois State University, USA in economics and business administration and is currently involved in international trade in Dhaka.

Email: afsarulhaider@gmail.com


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Salon:

Do Trump’s voters even care if the President is a criminal?

So if the president’s base has no real commitment to democratic values, would they care if the president were found culpable in any of the scandals presently roiling the White House? Jan-Werner Müller, a political theorist at Princeton University and the author of the 2016 book “What Is Populism?” has his doubts. Even if Trump violated campaign finance laws in his alleged hush payment to Stormy Daniels, obstructed justice in the Mueller investigation or was discovered to have colluded with the Kremlin, Müller contends, he might not face any political consequences for his misdeeds.

“In many populist regimes, what seems so obviously like corruption is, in fact, a strength for these leaders,” Müller told Vox’s Sean Illing. “It’s easy to look at abuses of power and assume that it will hurt the person committing the abuses, but it’s not that simple. What might look like corruption or cronyism to neutral observers is seen by the supporters of populists as doing the right thing for the right people, the ‘real people.’ This is why the tribal appeal of populism is so crucial. Populist leaders thrive on distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ between ‘the people’ and ‘the establishment.'”

As Müller sees it, the president’s supporters have been conditioned to tolerate a criminal commander-in-chief. Because Trump campaigned on the promise to dismantle a rigged political system, his voters likely interpret his looting and graft as a means to an end.

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David Byler/Weekly Standard (data guy, safe to read):

The Gritty Details of Trump’s Approval Ratings

Three takeaways about the president from a great SurveyMonkey series.

This graphic shows the percentage of Trump disapprovers who “strongly” or “somewhat” disapprove of Trump’s job performance in a series of SurveyMonkey polls stretching from January 2017 to now.

The top line tells most of the story. If you put every American who disapproves of Trump in a room (usually more than half of the people that SurveyMonkey polls) and picked someone randomly, the odds of picking a “strong disapprover” would be greater than 3-to-1.

trump disapproval graph, most strongly disapprove)
The blue line is somewhat disapprove and the red line strongly disapprove. 

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Click, there’s more on that thread.

Elizabeth Bruenig/WaPo:

Evangelicals’ support for Trump will cost them — spiritually

German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer might have identified this convenient display of clemency as “cheap grace” — “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance,” the extension of “grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” Forgetting, in other words, without the difficult business of forgiving; a kind of loveless, self-interested charity.

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Democrats: Gun control and Republicans: Right to bear arms.

This might not be the winning issue for Rs it has been before, it’s being matched on the D side. Want more evidence of enthusiasm?

Above, national. Below, bellwether PA.

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Vanita Gupta/WaPo:

The bitter lie behind the census’s citizenship question

Even before this disastrous decision, local officials and community leaders were deeply concerned about the difficulty of achieving a robust response in some communities, given a political climate in which immigrants are demonized and families live in fear of loved ones being plucked off the streets and deported. Adding a question about citizenship status into the mix can only heighten suspicions, depress response rates and sabotage the accuracy of the 2020 count. This decision would affect everyone, with communities that are already at greater risk of being undercounted — including people of color, young children, and low-income rural and urban residents — suffering the most.

What is the benefit here? The false justification offered by Sessions and his Justice Department, and repeated in Ross’s decision memo, is that this question is critical for Voting Rights Act enforcement. That argument is a bitter lie, laced with cruel irony. Consider that this is the same Sessions who has called the Voting Rights Act “intrusive” and has shown no compunction in flouting voting rights enshrined in law.

Interesting take:

Atlantic:

The Doctor Who Suddenly Got Nine Million Patients

For a position that demands high-level policy expertise, President Trump appointed his personal physician, Ronny Jackson.

The VA is the second-largest federal department, overseeing 1,243 health-care facilities including 170 hospitals, which tend to be a ghostly network of dim, mid-century structures that bear the scars of serving as constant political battlefields. They tend to have bad food and no marble and bizarre gift shops that I’ve seen sell knives and cured meats. Yet VA hospitals seem to underscore the waste of the glitz of five-star-hospital-style academic medical centers. The system punches above its weight in the quality and safety of care it delivers compared to most of the private health-care industry.

The guy is a good doc, and unqualified for the position. I can’t say uniquely unqualified, because of the rest of the Trump cabinet.

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Alexandra Petri/WaPo:

I am sick of these children and their demands for safe spaces.

Safe spaces! Back in my day, all we had were dangerous spaces. People would call you names that would turn your ears blue. Everyone had measles, mumps and rubella, just as a matter of course, and we did not go crawling to our family physicians for so-called vaccines. Disease was a ritual of childhood. We toughed it out. We built character.

We did not have satellite radio or the Internet. We had to make our own electricity by rubbing sticks together. Everyone had six guns apiece, which we used to fight world wars. (There has not been a good world war for too long, and kids have gotten needlessly soft.) When children misbehaved, their parents were strongly encouraged to hit them with a rod.

Learn from your kids.

Terry Teachout/Commentary with a shoutout to stage directors:

Regardless of their theoretical approach, all good directors start by asking themselves a deceptively simple-sounding question: What is the play about? The answer can be as general as the sentence intoned by Laurence Olivier in his 1948 film version of Hamlet: “This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.” It can even contradict the playwright’s intentions, as is often the case with postmodern European stagings of the classics, whose directors see themselves as co-equal in importance to the author (unlike most American directors, who at the very least pay lip service to authorial intent). But whatever the answer, it must be both concise and comprehensible, for every production-related decision made by the director will flow from his understanding of the play’s meaning. If it is vague, then the production will lack focus.

The next step is to figure out what the show will look like on stage. This is one of the most important decisions that a director makes, for it sets the overall tone of the production, and it is made in consultation with the set and costume designers, whose input is crucial. Generally speaking, three broad choices are possible: A production can be realistic, abstract, or set in a stylized space that is used as if it were realistic. 

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Gabriel Schoenfeld/USA Today:

Aunt Jeanne, Donald Trump and me: a modern Passover tale

My Jewish family had a harrowing escape from the Nazis. That’s informed my views of Donald Trump, an ‘America First’ bigot who preys on the vulnerable.

“You can do anything” — those are the words of unbridled power. Across an ocean and decades in time, those are the same words that played in the minds of the lawless men my aunt and mother encountered in the Pyrenees. When you’re a robber in the mountains with unarmed helpless Jews, “you can do anything.”
There are certain criminal types who appear again and again across time and place and leave their stamp on history. Born in a different moment and under different circumstances, what role would Donald Trump have played? We cannot know and can only judge him by a lifetime of low words and tawdry behavior. But with my aunt and mother both in their graves, fortunate to die peaceful deaths in our blessed land, it is difficult to accept that someone of his type is America’s president, the most powerful man on the face of the earth

Top World Scientists Prove Me Wrong If AIDS And Ebola Aren't Bio-Weapons

Micro-Surgeon and Scientist Johan Van Dongen has thrown a challenge to world top scientists to prove him wrong if Aids and Ebola aren’t medical crimes against Africans.

I decided to increase my efforts as a Micro-Surgeon and Scientist, to send every necessary information to the corners of the world that Aids, Ebola, Lassa fever, Burkitt’s Lymphoma etc, were all man-made diseases plagued on Africans to depopulate the continent.

The reason behind this renewed action in the year 2016 is that those medical crimes had been covered up for so long that those responsible are enjoying their lives with impunity while the pharmaceutical companies make a profit out of Africa’s misery.

3312018104911 johan van dongen

Again, tirelessly, I have taken African leaders incompetency into consideration, to ask them the reason they sit on the presidential seats, living in corruption by taking Africa’s money to Swiss Banks, while Europe and America used Africans as Guinea pigs, to test all the dangerous drugs manufactured in Europe and America. If they can’t protect Africans, they shouldn’t seek for their votes.

In 1969, when the USA Armed Forces applied to the USA Congress for funds to create biological weapons, they justified it as follows; “Within the next five to ten years, it would probably be possible to make a new effective microorganism which differs in certain important aspects from any known disease-causing organisms. But what they didn’t tell the USA Congress is that they had already succeeded in making the BL causing disease long time in animal laboratories of the Veterinary Hospital in Pasadena, California USA.

The virus is human made and tested on black skinned people in Uganda and Zaire in Africa, in order to find vaccines against it for military defending purposes. After the Ebola outbreaks in Africa, apparently, nobody is interested in finding a cure for Africa.

In recent interview with one of Belgium’s newspapers, Belgium’s professor Guido van der Groen lied over the origins of Ebola and Aids, and said Ebola was invented in the 1960’s in Fort Detrick in Congo, however; he has forgotten on October 13, 1994, he granted an interview to the Belgian news magazine called ‘Humo’ and said “The U.S. military laboratories slated for Ebola and HIV, to develop into a biological weapon in the early sixties.”

The magazine is available those that need a copy should contact Humo publishers. Belgium-based African journalist and author, Joel Savage, wrote an article on this issue captioned ‘Dutch’s Professor Johan Van Dongen challenges Belgium’s Professor Guido Van Der Groen, over the origins of Ebola’ and the article which was published by Europe’s Diplomatic Aspects Newspaper disappeared on the web without any trace. Who are responsible and what are they trying to cover up?

So what are African leaders waiting for again after knowing that Aids and Ebola are medical crimes against the continent? Has Europe and America paid African leaders to remain silent over those medical crimes which have taken thousands of Africans into their untimely graves?

No wonder Africans are treated like garbage in many parts of Europe and America because the leaders have proved to be garbage themselves. If African leaders don’t respect and care about the welfare of their citizens, how do you expect European and American leaders to respect them?

A challenge to all European and American scientist

I have got nothing to lose at the moment, after losing my job as a lecturer in the university. Prove me wrong if Aids and Ebola are not medical crimes against Africans. Prove me wrong if the diseases weren’t manufactured in the laboratory as bio-warfare products. Prove me wrong, if the above-mentioned diseases weren’t used on Africans.

I am not a coward, therefore, I’m ready to answer your questions. We (Joel Savage and Johan Van Dongen) have set up e-mail to answer your questions and prove to you that Aids, Ebola, Lassa fever and other diseases are indeed medical crimes against Africa.

E-mail: [email protected]

3312018104911 johan van dongen

USA Today reports that 22 states and the District of Columbia are debating red flag bills. Arkansas’ legislature isn’t in session just now, but here’s hoping we don’t get left too far behind. The momentum behind this trend might proving fleeting. As momentum does. But it’s far too important to let slide long.

These laws would allow family members, law enforcement types, or maybe just folks who know the person best to seek court orders to temporarily take firearms away from those who show certain “red flags.” Emphasis on court orders. For a judge would have to (1) agree with the petitioners and (2) sign off on it. An angry brother-in-law couldn’t have your guns taken away after some disagreement on a lawnmower deal.

These laws have been around for a while, but most of America began seriously thinking about them after the Florida school shooting back in February, when police say a troubled kid (and how) walked onto the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School campus in Parkland and killed 17 people.

The accused down in Florida had enough red flags to warrant something happening. Some reports say the cops were called to his home 23 times. CNN reports 45. A neighbor told cops in 2016 the kid planned to shoot up a school. Infamously, last fall the FBI got a tip saying just that. And somebody called the FBI’s hotline about him in January. For the FBI’s part, a spokesman tells the nation that “protocols were not followed.” And now 17 people are dead.

There might be as many ideas about red-flag laws as there are lawmakers in each state thinking about them. But some ideas are better than others. Some folks talk about “common-sense gun laws”–well, here’s one:

• If a family member or law enforcement type thinks it necessary, they could petition a court to take somebody’s firearms to prevent immediate danger. To himself or others.

• A full hearing should be scheduled quickly, for due process is still, well, due in this country.

• If a judge agrees that the person is showing some sort of disturbing pattern, a longer order can be issued. Maybe more importantly for the ACLU and NRA crowd (what a strange pairing), if a judge disagrees, the person gets his guns back.

There is already opposition. Much from the two outfits mentioned above. But a person shouldn’t be allowed to die, or kill, with his rights on. The Constitution, it was once said, isn’t a suicide pact. Or it certainly shouldn’t be.

How would this work in the real world? Dispatches from Florida say the week after such legislation was signed by the governor, a judge in Broward County issued the state’s first order to un-arm, temporarily, a disturbed man–who believed electrical breakers were electrocuting him and that the FBI had sent shape-shifters to get him. The state took away four weapons and a couple hundred rounds of ammo. Which seems . . . perfectly reasonable. Here’s hoping the state also gets the poor fella the help he needs.

In this debate, there are few opportunities for bipartisan compromise. This is one. Let’s take advantage of it while we still can.

cc: Arkansas’ legislature

Now then, about the case in Vilonia, Ark . . . . The public prints have documented enough of the troubles of the student in question. And the worries of the school district. It really shouldn’t be an editorialist’s lot to draw conclusions on a matter better left to the courts, and school system, and the myriad of experts who’ve lined up to give their (better informed) opinions.

But, and there’s always a but:

But what, do you suppose, would be written here if something were to happen after these warning signs had been ignored? The school district in Vilonia has a duty to educate all children, and officials there apparently know it. For they’ve said as much in court documents. But they also have the duty to protect children, too.

It all starts by recognizing red flags. But only starts. Action must follow. With an assist by a judge in good standing.

Editorial on 03/31/2018