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Extreme Poverty On The Rise

Extreme poverty on the rise – UN committee calls for Asia-Pacific countries to ensure economic recovery packages aligned with financing sustainable development

With the COVID-19 pandemic having pushed some 89 million people in Asia and the Pacific back into extreme poverty in the last two years, countries need to reorient their sizeable economic stimulus towards a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable future for all, delegates meeting at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) were told today.

“We have seen in the last two years just how vulnerable the Asia-Pacific region is to both the economic and non-economic shocks. In 2020, the Asia-Pacific region recorded its worst economic performance in decades,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP in her opening remarks to the third session of the Committee on Macroeconomic Policy, Poverty Reduction and Financing for Development. However, she added, “the pandemic has provided an opportunity for countries to reconsider policies and strategies and align fiscal and financial resources with development efforts that will pay significant dividends in the future.”

The rising debt burden faced by developing countries in the region is becoming a daunting challenge and squeezing fiscal space considerably. While countries prioritize speedy economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, financial flows should not be diverted from sustainable development and climate action, and policymakers should seek to “build back better” by enhancing the resilience of their economies.

Over the next three days, the Committee will deliberate on various fiscal, monetary and financial measures that will support the region in regaining economic momentum and ensure that recovery is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To mobilize additional fiscal and financial resources to build back better together, the regional meeting will further emphasize the large potential of innovative and digital financing strategies, such as thematic bonds, climate risk reporting, debt-for-climate swaps and digital payment solutions.

The Committee will also consider a proposal to establish a consultative group on financing strategies for the SDGs. The group aims to connect ESCAP, key government ministries and thought leaders to generate expert ideas and leverage regional knowledge on how to implement recommended policy actions.

Ahead of the Committee, ESCAP also launched last week a publication on Financing the SDGs to Build Back Better from the COVID-19 Pandemic in Asia and the Pacific. The report dives into the role of innovative climate and digital finance strategies to address the financing gaps in the region and support post-pandemic recovery. It suggests key regulatory and solution-oriented policy actions that can help scale up financing in support of the SDGs.

The Committee meets every two years and serves as a platform to evaluate regional economic development policies and options, as well as integrated approaches to financing for development.

Special remarks at this year’s Committee opening were presented by H.E. Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Minister of Finance, Indonesia; H.E. Omar Ayub Khan, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Pakistan; H.E. Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, Minister of Finance, Thailand; H.E. Lyonpo Namgay Tshering, Minister of Finance, Bhutan; H.E. A. H. M. Mustafa Kamal, Minister of Finance, Bangladesh; Elliot Harris, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs; and Bambang Susantono, Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, Asian Development Bank.

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