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Why an anti-poverty programme in Bangladesh failed

A YEAR AND a half ago The Economist wrote about a promising approach to cutting poverty in Bangladesh (“On their bikes”, January 27th 2018). RDRS, a charity, was offering small loans to more than 100,000 poor farmers on the condition that they migrated temporarily to a city for work. Everything seemed to be set fair. Smaller randomised controlled trials had shown that many men could be persuaded to move while the rice crop is growing, when there is not much work to be done at home. Although the migrants found only low-paid jobs, as rickshaw drivers, building labourers and the like, their fortunes had greatly improved. It looked like a true poverty cure.Sadly, things soon began to go wrong. Evidence Action, the charity overseeing the scheme, heard rumours that somebody involved with the project may have sought to bribe a government official, though it could not substantiate them. More damningly, as the data came in, it became clear that in 2017 few men had been persuaded to migrate. On June 6th Evidence Action announced it was shutting down the scheme. What looked like a miracle cure for poverty now seems like a warning about the pitfalls of development projects.
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