Poverty in Asia-Pacific to rise—UN report

Published by rudy Date posted on March 26, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – The number of poor people in the Asia-Pacific Region is likely to increase as a result of the economic crisis and rising unemployment, according to a United Nations survey that was released Thursday.

“The number of poor in the Asia and Pacific – already two thirds of the global total – was likely to increase as a result of the economic crisis and rising unemployment,” according to the survey by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The economic crisis heavily impacts on the prices of food and fuel, as well as the region’s vulnerability to climate change, the survey said.

It also blamed the “record high oil prices last year” that hit $147 a barrel, and the “hoarding and price speculation that drove prices up by 150 percent.”

“This is the region’s staple, with prices increases hitting the poor the hardest,” the survey said.

Amy Wong, economic affairs officer of the socio-economic analysis section of the UN ESCAP, said it was crucial for governments to “really address the poor, and those in need. They are the ones in more need of social security, strong stable social foundation than anyone.”

Wong said a way to tackle this crisis was by “promoting sustainable development by enhancing positive linkages between energy use and food security.”

“Impacts of the crisis have hit the world’s poor the hardest, two thirds of whom live in the Asia Pacific. It is clear that a more inclusive model for economic growth is required to address their needs,” said Wong.

Wong said this would require “setting up social protection systems that would increase income security and free up spending power of middle and lower income people who drive the economy.”

Wong also cited the need for these states to engage in intra-regional trade to “strengthen” their markets and “ensure growth.”

“Based on our findings, we urge countries to cooperate more with one another, strengthen their domestic markets to ensure sustainable growth,” said Wong.

Wong proposed implementing “macroeconomic policies” that would increase “regional and global multiplier effects, pool and expand reserves “to cover bank liquidity.”

The UN survey said the threat of a “triple crises” – world financial crisis; food, fuel price volatility; and climate change – started to erode the resiliency in the Asia-Pacific in the last quarter of 2008 when the region’s engine of growth, trade moved from double digit growth to double digit declines.

Before this, reforms undertaken by these countries starting in 1997 – implementation of prudent macroeconomic policies, improved fiscal balances, banking reforms and foreign exchange reserve accumulation – cushioned the initial impact of the global crisis.

But economic professor Leonardo Lanzona of the Ateneo de Manila University criticized some points in the survey, saying, “It does not really have steps that lead to integrated steps, so seems displaced. Also, other crises can be internal.”

Lanzona said prevention, reduction, and coping strategies must also be addressed.

“We need to look at prevention strategies to reduce risk and this should be introduced before the risk occurs, not after. We need to reduce income-risk through social protection to prevent social implications from the effects of local market. Thirdly we need coping strategies to relieve the impact of the risk,” Lanzona said.

The Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific for 2009 is the flagship publication of ESCAP. The results of the survey were released in over 20 cities across the region, New York and in Geneva.–Erika Tapalla, INQUIRER.net

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