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Poverty gaps

Will this be Asia’s century? When it comes to growth and social progress, there have been heady leaps forward, with every prospect of continued dynamism over the next five years. But according to the Southeast Asian Economic Outlook 2013, if there is a blot on the map, it is in tackling poverty and the wide development gaps that bedevil the continent.

True, there have been huge decreases in the rates of poverty since the 1990s, as the chart shows, but the ratios remain worryingly high, particularly if judged against the widely accepted yardstick of US$2/day. The poverty headcount ratio in China stood at nearly 85% of the population in 1990, and fell sharply to just below 30% in 2008. This may be high compared with, say, Malaysia (2.3% in 2009) or Thailand (4.6%), but is far lower than the rates in Cambodia, India and Indonesia.

More investment growth will doubtless reduce poverty further, though the report also underlines the importance of specific anti-poverty initiatives too, such as upgrading human resources in the labour market, raising education levels, improving poor incomes, cash transfer programmes and more. In the case of the Philippines, where the fall in poverty has not been that marked in 20 years, the authors urge more job creation, and see tapping into global tourism as an area of real potential.

See www.oecd.org/dac/povertyreduction

See also www.oecd.org/development

© OECD Observer 294 Q1 2013