Poverty in numbers
The realities of Asian poverty
Poverty is the most important challenge for the Asian governments as well as international and regional development agencies as it has significant consequences on economic, social and political aspects of people and societies. Poverty copy is not only associated with lower level of income but also has serious repercussions on peoples’ access to health, education, electricity, housing, drinking water, sanitation facilities, transport and economic opportunities. In the region, significant poverty gaps exist among countries as well as between countries.
At the country level, some countries have been able to benefit from the Asian dynamism and economic growth in the last 3 decades and grow their economies providing much needed resources for poverty reduction. Countries such as South Korea, Singapore, Hongkong and Taiwan- called “newly industrialized countries- eliminated poverty successfully. Others including Malaysia, Thailand and China are following the same path and experiencing remarkable success in taking poor out of poverty. But some others such as the least developed countries and landlocked countries are not that fortunate and struggling to use globalization integration to their benefit. Not only smaller countries but also big countries such as India and Indonesia are suffering from poverty. India is home to two third of the poverty of the region. Within the countries, the problem is becoming even more serious with the gap between the rich and the poor is increasingly widening and deepening. This is clearly reflected in the rise of indicators of inequality in some countries such as China, India and Indonesia and the same is true for the region. Disparities are evident between rural and urban, different professions, sexes, and community groups.
How to reduce poverty gaps:
- Inclusive economic policies- economic growth does not lead to poverty reduction unless the gains from such growth are not trickled down to poor segments of the society, vulnerable groups, marginalized women and children, elderly and the people with disabilities. Policies need to be designed keeping these groups in mind and ensuring that the benefits of economic progress are passed on to them. These policies could include not only income distribution policies but also sectoral policies.
- Creation of jobs-trade, investment and business activities are conducted in a manner providing equal opportunities to participate in and benefit from such activities. Governments should put in place enabling environment through appropriate policies and strategies encouraging business sector to invest in job-rich production, investment and trade. It is also important for mobilize FDI in the sectors and industries where jobs are created.
- Public investment in social sectors: education is a key to empowering societies. Low access to education is directly and closely associated with poverty. Good education and skills are major drivers of eliminating poverty and any investment in this sector tremendously help people to come out of poverty. On the other hand, higher incomes enable people to get better education for their children.
- Increased access to services: Lack of access to health, transport, energy, banking and credit facilities, water and sanitation etc prevent people from participating in economic activities.
- In order face this challenge, not only countries need to be sensitized with sound poverty reduction policies and strategies but also should build their capacities, both human and institutional and then be provided with an opportunity to share experience with other countries.