News / Asia

Asian Economies Urged to Invest in Social Issues

Unskilled workers unload pebbles form a tug boat in Rangoon, Burma, November 23, 2012.
Unskilled workers unload pebbles form a tug boat in Rangoon, Burma, November 23, 2012.
Robert Carmichael
The United Nations' development arm for the Asia-Pacific region released its flagship report Thursday and is calling on governments to spend more money on key social issues, rather than concentrating solely on fiscal restraint and inflation.

For the past 30 years, countries have focused their macroeconomic policies on keeping inflation low and their spending within tight limits. But the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) believes this narrow focus on fiscal stability is wrong, particularly when applied to developing countries, because those measures have cut spending in key social areas such as education and health.

In its annual report, UNESCAP, said that approach has damaged development objectives -- and it is calling for a better balance.

Governments should be concerned with the quality of their spending, not just the quantity, and should focus more on health, education and social safety nets such as pensions and disability payments, said the report's authors. Nations must also keep a watchful eye on the damage done to the environment in their pursuit of economic growth, it said.

Nobuko Kajiura, an economic affairs officer with UNESCAP, said the U.N. body’s report arrived at its conclusions by simulating increased spending on its key recommendations in 10 countries, including China, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia, to calculate whether a new approach was sustainable. They found that it was.

“So basically we are saying that this is still affordable," Kajiura said. "Another question is: Is it going to destabilize the economy? No. These policies are affordable and doable without causing a destabilization of the economy.”

UNESCAP covers 62 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, from Turkey to Kiribati, Russia to New Zealand and everything in between. Those 62 countries are home to more than four billion people -- two-thirds of the global population.

Thursday’s report notes that the world’s economy remains in a vulnerable position after the 2008 global economic crisis, which it estimates cost this region $870 billion in lost gross domestic product. By 2017, it predicts, that cost will have risen to $1.3 trillion.

The global slowdown reduced growth in the Asia-Pacific region. Last year, it managed 5.6 percent, which is well under the approximately eight percent annual figure seen in the previous decade. The region’s economic growth is expected to reach six percent this year.

UNESCAP said that even during the decade of robust growth, income inequality in many countries worsened, leaving hundreds of millions of people vulnerable. And it worries the lives of the region’s poorest 800 million people, who live below the poverty line of $1.25 a day, might not improve unless governments refocus efforts on inclusive and sustainable development.

It also points out that a further 900 million people in the region live above the poverty line, but still earn less than two dollars a day. It would take very little to push them back into extreme poverty.

There are effective policies that can address the most vulnerable, said Nobuko Kajiura.

“The job guarantee program, universal non-contributory pension, benefits to all persons with disabilities, increasing the share of public health expenditure - five percent of GDP by 2030 - and universal enrollment in primary and secondary education and energy access to all," Kajiura said.

Another recommendation is a well-designed minimum wage policy. According to the report, Thailand put that into effect and, in so doing, will boost the number of jobs and its GDP.

UNESCAP estimates implementing these changes would cost most countries between five and 10 percent of GDP by 2030. Boosting relatively inefficient tax collections would help to finance that cost. But Nobuko Kajiura acknowledged whether countries in the region will carry out the recommended policies is an open question.

“It is up to the countries whether they will actually sort of implement any of the recommendations. But what we are trying to do is flag the kinds of possibilities to show that focusing on more social expenditure, for example, [will] not collapse the economy and that it actually eventually would benefit the country," she said.

In short, the report says focusing on economic growth at the expense of social development and environmental sustainability is outdated. It says all three goals can reinforce each other, with the result that many more people would be better off.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid