Highlights for the Media
Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2007
Economic performance in 2006
- For the eighth consecutive year, developing economies in the Asia-Pacific region grew faster than those in all other regions at 7.9% in 2006, up from 7.6% in 2005.
- With Asian and Pacific developing economies accounting for more than one-third of global growth in 2006, the region is becoming the locomotive of global growth.
- Economic growth in 2006 has been widely shared between countries in the region. The continuing buoyancy of external demand remained a source of growth for many countries.
- Exports of electronics continued to be a key source of growth in East Asia. Oil and gas exports fuelled growth in North and Central Asian and other regional producers. Domestic demand, particularly high investments, drove GDP growth in South and South-West Asia.
Economic outlook for 2007
- The external environment is expected to be less favourable in 2007, mainly due to the slowing United States economy. A moderate decline in global electronics demand in 2007 may dampen the region's prospects. And the easing of commodity prices, including that of oil, comes as a mixed blessing.
- As the international economic environment weakens, momentum in the region is expected to come from China, India and Japan. A rebound in economic growth in South-East Asian economies will add to the growth momentum of the region.
- Inflation will be less of a problem in 2007. For developing Asia-Pacific economies it is projected at 3.8% in 2007, down from 2006.
- Managing exchange rates will be the biggest challenge in 2007. The major currencies in the region are expected to continue to appreciate, partly because of capital flows to the region and partly due to the imbalances in the United States economy.
- Central Banks can choose any two of three policy options: targeting exchange rates, having an independent monetary policy, and keeping capital accounts open – but not all three. Greater exchange rate flexibility is one sustainable solution. It would take away the "one-way bet" that encourages speculative capital inflows.
Economic outlook for 2007: downside risks
- There are six major downside risks to the baseline forecasts for 2007: an oil price shock; an abrupt cooling of housing markets in the United States; a disorderly unwinding of global imbalances; a reversal of the sustainability of the Japanese economic recovery; economic "overheating" in China; and an avian flu pandemic.
- Countries affected by the 1997 Asian financial crisis, except for Malaysia, are displaying renewed economic vulnerability in 2006. Vulnerability is also a concern in some of the region's other emerging economies, such as Pakistan and the Russian Federation.
Special study: Gender inequality continues—at great cost
- Restrictions and limits on women's access to work, education and health services, so often seen in human rights terms, also come at significant economic costs.
- The region is losing US$42-47 billion a year because of restrictions on women's access to employment opportunities – and another US$16-30 billion a year because of gender gaps in education. Those are just the economic costs – added to them are social and personal costs.
- Gender discrimination in the region is most visible in the low access of women and girls to education and health services, to economic opportunities and to political participation.
- Female primary school enrolment can be as much as 26% lower than that of males.
- In some countries one in every 10 girls dies before reaching age of one, and one in every 50 women dies during pregnancy and delivery.
- The violence against women continues unabated, indicating how voiceless women are in households and in countries.
- Progress has been made in reducing gender discrimination in Asia and the Pacific, though the pace has been uneven between subregions and individual countries.
- Women's life expectancy increased from 44 years during 1950-1955 to 70 years in 2000-2005, with a slightly higher growth rate for women than men.
- Infant mortality has declined from 171 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1955 to 52 deaths in 2000, while adult female mortality has dropped by more than 40% since 1960 for most of the countries in the region.
- Women's literacy rate increased significantly.
- The number of women parliamentarians has increased 50% since 1997.
- But pockets of extreme discrimination persist. And some gender discrimination exists, almost unnoticed, throughout the region.
- Gender balance can be achieved at minimum of effort and cost provided there is political commitment at the highest level. The following areas of intervention are critical:
- Free primary education, offering scholarships to girls, ensuring schools are close to villages, the provision of safe transport, toilet facilities for girls are crucial in reducing gender gap in education.
- Providing access to adult education for women as well as ending gender-based restrictions in professions, such as in medicine, opens opportunities to reach women.
- Implementing legislation to ensure the rights of women to equal access to basic health services is necessary because more often than not cultural practices and misconceptions prevent women's access to health care.
- Providing free midday meals for school children, special nutritional packages for pregnant mothers will go a long way in addressing malnutrition, and lowering infant and maternal mortality rates.
- The provision of mobile clinics and offering community-based emergency transport could save millions of maternal and infant deaths.
- Removing restrictions on asset ownership and access to resources should be a priority in achieving gender balance.
Headquartered in Bangkok, UNESCAP is the largest of the UN's five Regional Commissions in terms of its membership, population served and area covered. The only inter-governmental forum covering the entire Asia-Pacific region, UNESCAP aims to promote economic and social progress. More information on UNESCAP is available from www.unescap.org.
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