May 28, 2004

Rich-poor gap still widening

Bangladesh is a country of great diversities. In Dhaka, you will find a million dollar home standing next to a slum. You will see Mercedes Benz among the city traffic besides a shabby minivan carrying loads of people. This is due to the improper distribution of wealth among the educated & non-educated strata of population. As the primary sector is agriculture, a large number of population works in the agriculture sector, where education is not a key imperative and unplanned and weak work culture do not suit the manufacturing sector. For those who can break through the shackles of poverty, the only key is education. And for the educated mass it is a land of opportunities. If you can earn yourself a good degree and have a well-paid job in the manufacturing or service sector, then you can really have a relaxed living. While the wages of maids and chauffeurs are very low, many can afford them. And specially if you are an entrepreneur and everything goes your way, you can be a King of the country, affording a Mercedes car and a million dollar home.

But how does it feel to those, who live in the Palace besides the shabby slum. Do they feel proud to be rich or do they feel as the colonial lords (British) who have ruled the country long ago. What do they do for their poor relatives, when they starve or have a great financial difficulty? Many among them are proud to be Muslims. But they do not give Jakaat as per Muslim law and the income tax at the rate they should give. If they have done that the gap should not have been so wide. It seems the culture of showing off is engrossing all of us.

I am haunted by these questions everyday. Recently I got promoted and got a salary increase. That means I can afford an air-conditioner now, which has become a necessity in these extreme weathers. I pay tax, Jakaat and try to help the needy. But somehow I feel many of the luxuries I can afford and cherish are not worthy for me. When most of my relatives and friends do not have these luxuries, why should I make them feel that I am showing off?

I know that eventually I will not give away the comfort I can afford. I am like those persons who have made the gap between rich and poor wider. I know I am the guilty one.

Bangladesh is unlikely to able to come out of the LDC category in the next 20 years unless it can achieve double-digit growth.


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