Agricultural trade liberalisation, growth in income, inequality, rural households, Bangladesh


The study has investigated the growth in income of rural households in Bangladesh with a view to analysing distributional consequences in the post-liberalisation era. Using data from secondary sources, it has applied a quintile-growth approach by dividing each group of households into five income clusters (quintiles) to analyse the incidence of growth in real income. It has found that although all groups of rural households experienced a moderate to high increase in real income, non-farm households experienced a larger increase than farm households due to a large reduction in consumer price. Farm households gained from the increase in productivity but experienced losses from producer price reduction. The two opposite forces – increase in productivity and reduction in producer price – offset the effects of each other, thereby affecting the income growth of farm households. Amongst the farm households, large and medium farmers gained the most and small farmers gained the least from the growth in real income, indicating that rich households experienced a much higher increase in real income than poor households – thereby adversely affecting the distribution of income and widening the income gap between rich and poor households. These findings demonstrated that while agricultural trade liberalisation benefited rural households generally, the benefits were not distributed equally and in fact, inequality increased amongst rural households. This study argues that the growth in real income of rural household was not pro-poor during 1985- 86 to 2005. This study suggests that agricultural trade liberalisation contributed to higher growth in the rural economy but it contributed to greater inequality in income distribution amongst the rich and poor income groups (quintiles). Government should reduce inequality through policy interventions with income transfer from the rich to the poor.