Pandemic behind explosion of poverty across Asia and Pacific
Taipei: Poverty in the East Asia and Pacific region is expected to rise for the first time in 20 years due to the triple shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic impact of lockdown and the global recession triggered by the health crisis.
The dire prediction, released by the World Bank on Tuesday, means that as many as 33 million people in East Asia who would have otherwise escaped poverty before the pandemic will remain poor, and another five million will be pushed back below a poverty line of just $US5.50 ($7.70) a day.
Residents put the finishing touches on a mural to honour front-line workers in Makati city, Philippines.Credit:AP
The forecast, nine months after the pandemic first hit, reveal that the region is predicted to see only 0.9 per cent growth in 2020 – the lowest since 1967.
"COVID-19 is not only hitting the poor the hardest, it is creating new poor. The region is confronted with an unprecedented set of challenges, and governments are facing tough choices," said Victoria Kwakwa, of the World Bank.
East Asia and the Pacific have had mixed results in handling the pandemic. While most countries, except for the Philippines and Indonesia, have managed to keep the health impact under control, few have escaped the huge economic fallout. Malaysia and Thailand, more vulnerable to a drop in exports and tourism, have seen their economies derailed.
The economies of some countries, including Vietnam and China, where COVID-19 was first detected, are expected to fare better.
"Many EAP countries have been successful in containing the disease and providing relief, but they will struggle to recover and grow," said Aaditya -Mattoo, World Bank chief economist for East Asia and the Pacific.
Meanwhile, the bank's president, David Malpass, said he was seeking board approval for a $US12 billion coronavirus vaccine financing plan to help poor and developing countries secure a sufficient share of vaccine doses when they become available in the coming months.
Malpass told Reuters the initiative, part of $US160 billion in coronavirus aid financing pledged by the multilateral lender, was aimed at helping countries procure and distribute vaccines early to healthcare and other essential workers and expand global production. He said the board was expected to consider the plan in early October.
Global competition for early coronavirus vaccine doses is already fierce, months ahead of any approvals, as wealthy countries move to secure supplies.
The Telegraph, London; Reuters
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