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Asian Development Bank Calls on Asia to Cut Poverty

The top official of the Asian Development Bank has called on Asia to fight poverty more vigorously as it grows more prosperous. He was speaking at the last session of the ADB's four-day meeting in Hyderabad.

Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda says the need of the hour in Asia is to ensure that the region's buoyant growth is more widely shared.

Speaking at the end of its four-day conference in Hyderabad, Kuroda said nearly two billion people in Asia still live on less than $2 a day. He said Asia's challenge is to include its poor in the process of development.

"At the same time the region grows more prosperous, the widening gap of income, assets, between rich and poor becomes less tolerable for all of us," he said.

Kuroda said the region must invest more in its people, in its health, education and infrastructure, so that the poor also gain access to markets and services.

In addition, the ADB leader said it is also critical to improve governance and end corruption to ensure that the benefits of development trickle down.

The four-day conference brought together top economic policy makers from across Asia, which is now among the fastest growing regions in the world.

Kuroda expressed confidence that, because of changes that have taken place, the region is unlikely to experience another financial crisis of the kind that disrupted several East Asian economies in the 1990s.

"Asian countries improved their economic management, their foreign exchange reserves increased, [the] banking system has been strengthened and supervision has been very much improved. However, of course it is prudent to have safety net," he added.

But Asia does face other risks. The ADB says if oil prices continue to rise, growth in the region could be cut by nearly half a percent. The impact could be more severe in countries such as China and India, which depend heavily on imported crude.

Asia's growing numbers of unemployed and underemployed people represent another challenge.

The ADB has also called on Asia to strengthen regional cooperation in the way other parts of the world, such as Europe, have done. It says East Asia has made significant strides, but other regions such as Central Asia lag behind.