The average American believes the US spends a whopping third
of its federal budget on foreign aid. Consequently, a majority of people think that too much is spent on foreign aid. That is one reason US President Donald J. Trump, who has campaigned on putting the needs of Americans first, has proposed deep cuts to foreign aid in his 2018 budget.
Every hour, tuberculosis kills nine Bangladeshis. Another seven die each hour from arsenic in drinking water. Simple and cheap solutions are available to avoid almost all these deaths.
Bangladesh is ground zero for microfinance. Over the decades, since Sir Fazle Abed founded BRAC and Muhammad Yunus started Grameen Bank, the strategy of providing micro-sized loans to borrowers has helped increase income and consumption for the poor, ensured food security for many, created employment opportunities, and empowered women. According to the Credit and Development Forum, nearly 700 microfinance institutions operate in the country today, disbursing approximately Tk. 647 billion (Tk. 64,700 crore) to 3.4 crore active borrowers. The microfinance sector now contributes about 10 percent of GDP and generates approximately 250,000 jobs.
More than six kilometres of water separate the southwest region from the rest of Bangladesh. The longstanding Padma Bridge project holds potential to span that gap both physically and economically, linking the region with Dhaka, Chittagong, and the rest of the country to the east.
In Bangladesh, remittances from people living and working abroad added up to nearly Tk. 1.2 trillion last year—more than four times the nearly Tk. 250 billion that foreign aid agencies spent in the country.
Bangladesh's public sector faces serious challenges. Poor infrastructure is one of the main factors that hold back economic growth. Government-funded health clinics struggle to provide the population with quality, specialised services. And beyond primary school, quality public education opportunities are extremely limited. These are just a handful of the challenges, and they are partly due to a stark fact: the country has one of the lowest tax-to-GDP ratios in the world.
When it comes to cooking indoors over open fires, the harmful health effects can be equal to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. This indoor air pollution plagues nearly nine out of every 10 Bangladeshi households, which use wood and other biofuels to cook inside.
When it comes to the biggest challenges facing Bangladesh, surely poverty is one of the most crucial. And there is still much work to be done.Despite cutting the rate of extreme poverty from 34 percent in 2000 to just 13 percent today, 20 million Bangladeshis still live in conditions considered to be ultra poor. Living on less than Tk. 43 per day can be immensely difficult, and for some, it can create a trap that's almost impossible to escape.
Right now, the United Nations is negotiating one of the world’s potentially most powerful policy documents. It can influence trillions of dollars, pull hundreds of millions out of poverty and hunger, reduce violence and improve education — essentially make the world a better place. But much depends on this being done well.