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Countries In Asia-Pacific Face Extreme Poverty

Least Developed Countries In Asia-Pacific Face Extreme Poverty – UN Report

New York, Jul 1 2005 3:00PM

In a region of rising prosperity, fast growth in countries like China, India and the East Asian "tigers" hides widespread extreme poverty in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) of Asia and the Pacific, according to a new United Nations report launched today.

"Due to the tyranny of averages, the relatively poor performance of the Asia-Pacific LDCs gets overshadowed," the report said the 14 Asia-Pacific LDCs, which have a per-capita income only one-fourth of that in the region overall, with almost half their population living below national poverty lines.

Included in this group are some of the poorest countries in the world, such as Afghanistan and Timor-Leste.

At the same time, development aid and debt relief to the Asia-Pacific LDCs have been disproportionately low and must be increased if these impoverished countries are to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of targets aimed at reducing a host of socio-economic ills such as extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.

With a combined population of 260 million – nearly two-fifths of LDCs population worldwide – the Asia-Pacific LDCs receive less than half of the average per-capita aid given to LDCs in other regions, according to the report, drafted by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

Overall, aid per capita is $19 for poor Asia-Pacific nations compared to $43 in other regions.

While praising the $40-billion debt cancellation initiative by the G8 industrialized nations, the report noted it did not include any Asia-Pacific countries.

"The international community ought not to obligate any country to spend money on debt servicing when that country does not have enough money to educate all its children at the primary level or reduce the number of children dying needlessly of treatable and preventable diseases," it said.

The report called for a "win-win" solution, including expanding the debt relief programme to more severely indebted countries; nearly tripling official development assistance over 2002 levels, from less than $4 billion to more than $12 billion by 2006; facilitating trade and market access, especially by introducing preferential schemes; removing quotas or tariffs on exports; supporting investment in infrastructure; and facilitating entry into the World Trade Organization.

Simultaneously, it proposed a number of steps for improved governance in the region's LDCs, including greater accountability and transparency, along with better aid coordination, to boost conditions for scaled-up and more effective use of aid.


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