ADB sounds a note of cheer amid gloom

KATHMANDU: Asia and Pacific countries continue to make broad progress in reducing extreme poverty but hunger still

remains widespread and many economies are struggling to

meet other Millennium Development Goals (MDG), including

reduction in maternal mortality rates and access to sanitation, latest data reveal.

The data were announced

today in Key Indicators 2009, Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) flagship annual statistical publication.

It presents the latest available economic, financial, social, environmental, and MDG indicators for regional members of ADB.

Over the past 15 years, Asia

has made rapid progress in the fight against poverty, reducing the

number of poor from around one in two people to around one in four.

However, large pockets of

extreme poverty continue to

persist even as many economies have posted record growth

rates over that time.

“With the recent global downturn, which has led to large decline in exports, production, and aggregate demand, regional growth will continue to be under severe downward pressure,” said Jong-Wha Lee, ADB chief economist.

“Slower growth in the short-term will make progress in achieving

the Millennium Development Goals difficult for many

countries in Asia and the Pacific.”

The region is facing serious

challenges on goals linked to sanitation and maternal mortality.

The indicators show that maternal mortality rates remain unacceptably high in many countries

such as Afghanistan, Cambodia and Nepal while more than a quarter of urban households in 13 countries still lack access to improved sanitation. The region’s fast growth in recent years has also put severe strains on the environment, with developing Asian countries becoming heavy contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

Key Indicators 2009 regional tables, covering economic, financial, and social development indicators, provide further insights into the overall health of the region. The latest available data show that a growing number of people aged 65 or over is expected to put an increasing strain on health and welfare infrastructure going forward while per capita incomes show that the gap between rich and poor countries remains wide.

Inflows of foreign direct investment fell sharply in a number of economies last year as a result of global economic crisis, while registering new businesses remains a lengthy process in some countries.

At the same time, the data

show that savings ratios in Asia remain broadly high, intra-regional trade is strong and the balance of payments position of most economies is sound.