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Covid pushes 80 million more developing Asians into extreme poverty

KARACHI: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday said that the coronavirus pandemic will push around 80 million more people in developing Asia into extreme poverty, compared with last year.

“The pandemic pushed an estimated 75 million to 80 million more people in developing Asia into extreme poverty as of last year, compared with what would have happened without the Covid-19, according to key indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2021,” released by the ADB.

The coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic is threatening Asia and the Pacific’s progress towards critical targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to the new report by the Asian Development Bank.

Assuming that the pandemic has increased inequality, the relative rise in extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.90 a day, may be even greater.

The progress has also stalled in areas such as hunger, health, and education, where earlier achievements across the region had been significant, albeit uneven.

The key indicators present comprehensive economic, financial, social, and environmental statistics for the ADB’s 49 regional members. According to the report, around 203 million people, or 5.2 per cent, of developing Asia’s population lived in extreme poverty as of 2017.

Without the Covid-19, that number would have declined to an estimated 2.6 per cent in 2020.

“[The] Asia and the Pacific has made impressive strides, but [the] Covid-19 has revealed social and economic fault lines that may weaken the region’s sustainable and inclusive development,” ADB chief economist Yasuyuki Sawada said.

“To achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, decision makers need to harness high-quality and timely data as a guide for actions to ensure that the recovery leaves no one behind, especially the poor and vulnerable.”

The Asia and the Pacific’s economy has grown at a robust pace in recent years and contributed as much as 35 per cent to the global gross domestic product (GDP), in current US dollars, in 2019. But the Covid-19 took a toll just when weaker domestic investment and slowing global trade and economic activity were starting to challenge this momentum.

Among the reporting economies in Asia and the Pacific, only around one in four posted GDP growth last year. The region lost around 8 per cent of work hours due to mobility restrictions, deeply affecting the poorer households and workers in the informal economy.

The key indicators report includes a special supplement introducing a practical framework for measuring the digital economy and its growing role in modern life, which has been particularly evident during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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