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

Obama Pledges 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Burials

Country is improving at rapid response to remote, isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace Christmas precisely because of its non-religious glamor and commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid