Investment in poverty reduction can speed Asia-Pacific economic recovery, says UN regional chief

As the leader of the global economic recovery, the Asia-Pacific region must give priority to poverty reduction and inclusive development to sustain its dynamic growth, the top United Nations official in Asia-Pacific said here today.

“Poverty reduction, inclusive development and Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) achievement will be critical for sustaining the region’s dynamism in the coming years,” Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) told the annual high-level review of the UN global development agenda.

The ESCAP chief outlined a five point policy agenda for inclusive and equitable growth in the Asia-Pacific region. This includes refocusing growth on job-creation, strengthening social protection, greater investment in agricultural growth and rural development, fostering an institutional and regulatory environment for improving access of the poor to productive credit, closing physical infrastructure gaps, and improving physical and trade connectivity across the region.

Dr. Heyzer was addressing a panel discussion on ‘Promoting sustained, inclusive and equitable growth for accelerating poverty eradication and achievement of the MDGs' held during the High-Level Segment of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) held in Geneva.

Other panelists included Zhu Min, Special Advisor the Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Cho Tae-yul, Ambassador for Development Cooperation, Republic of Korea, Frances Stewart, Director of Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity, University of Oxford, Esther Duflo and Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The discussion was moderated by Juan Somavia, Director-General, International Labour Organization (ILO).

Dr. Heyzer said ESCAP findings show that while Asia-Pacific emerging economies have anchored the global economic recovery, “there are question marks on the region’s ability to sustain its dynamism in the medium term beyond the exit of expansionary policies.”

Furthermore, as it becomes clearer by the day that developed countries can no longer continue to be economic growth drivers for the Asia-Pacific region, the latter must start looking inwards for sources of growth.

“With 980 million people in poverty and wide gaps in terms of MDGs achievement, infrastructure and other development gaps within and between countries, the region has much headroom for expanding aggregate demand for sustaining growth,” Dr. Heyzer observed. The widening economic disparity among countries within the region has highlighted the need for increased regional integration by promoting seamless intra-regional trade. Thus, the share of Asia-Pacific Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in world trade has been less than 0.25 percent during a period when total world merchandise exports increased 42-fold.