Bangladesh lifted 13 million people out of poverty in the five years to 2010, pushing the poverty rate in the South Asian country down to 31.5 percent, the government said Wednesday.
A nationwide survey, sponsored by the World Bank, found some 46.8 million people were classified as "poor" at the end of 2010, down from more than 60 million in 2005, said senior Planning Ministry official Shamsul Alam.
"It's one of fastest paces of poverty decline in the country's history and has been driven by a boom in remittances, welfare spending, exports and the huge growth of non-farm sectors in the rural areas," he told AFP.
"This is an impressive achievement by any standard," said Sanjay Kathuria, World Bank Country Office acting head.
In the survey, "poor" was classified as someone unable to buy food that provides 2,122 kilocalories of nutrition per day.
Remittances shot up to $11 billion in 2010 from $4.8 billion in 2005 while exports nearly doubled in the same period, Alam said, adding the government had boosted social welfare spending by 53 percent to $2.5 billion.
"Remittances played the single biggest role because most money sent by our millions of migrant workers went to poor villages. Garment factories, the mainstay of exports, also created jobs for three million poor girls," he said.
According to the survey, rural poverty declined to 35.2 percent in 2010 from 43.8 percent in 2005, while urban poverty fell to 21.3 percent from 28.4 percent in the same period.
Rural areas are home to some 70 percent of Bangladesh's 150 million population.
According to official statistics, some 60 percent of Bangladeshis lived below the poverty line in 1990.
Impressive economic growth -- averaging five percent annually through the 1990s and six percent in the 2000s -- saw the number drop to 49 percent in 2000 and 40 percent in 2005.