Who gets what? An investigation into rural public works program in Bangladesh

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With widespread poverty, increasing inequality and high levels of unemployment, Bangladesh has experienced a variety of poverty-oriented programmes since the 1960s. Rural public works programme represents one of the major tools aimed at alleviating rural poverty and unemployment through generation of employment and income opportunities for the rural poor. This paper assesses the impact of the programme on the rural poor in improving their situation. By analyzing the socio-economic context within which such projects are implemented, the paper argues that the programme is far less effective than usually asserted. Despite its primary aim of helping the poor,. the programme appears to contribute to the benefit of those who are already in a better position in the rural socio-economic hierarchy. While rural elites gain enormous benefit from such projects both directly and indirectly, the wage employment has remained the only major benefit for the poor. But the volume of employment generated under the programme is not only limited in terms of numbers of workers involved in the context of widespread unemployment in rural areas, the employment is also only a few weeks during the year. Furthermore, the large scale corruption and irregularities that characterise the implementation of such projects, only a fraction of the total resources go to those labouring on these schemes. Although the labourers are frequently exploited and paid Jess than the official rates, their economic vulnerability and general Jack of solidarity prevent them from becoming effective in claiming fair wages. The paper, therefore, concludes that the impact of the programme on rural poverty alleviation is rather marginal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Science Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


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