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

    Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Video Canine Reading Buddies Help Students With Literacy

    Idea behind reading program is that sharing book with nonjudgmental companion boosts students' confidence and helps instill love of reading

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora