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

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs