Wednesday, October 2, 2013

South Asia fails to alleviate poverty, despite economic growth

KATHMANDU: Though the region has been able to achieve an average economic growth of 6.5 per cent annually in the last more than decade from 2000 to 2012, South Asia has failed reduce poverty and ensure food security, said a report released by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), here today.
The report, ‘SAARC Regional Poverty Profile 2009-10’ launched by chairman of the Interim Election Council Khil Raj Regmi here today, also underlined that still 32 per cent of South Asian live on less than $1.25-per person-a-day that is under absolute poverty.
While some countries of the region like Nepal may be near achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving the proportion of people in extreme poverty by 2015, south Asian region – home to the one third of the world’s poor – in general has still high incidences of poverty, hunger and malnutrition," the report said, adding that food production has improved considerably over time in all countries of the region, but inter-country and intra-country variations persist.
India is self-sufficient in all major food items except pulses and edible oils, while Pakistan is self-sufficient in wheat and rice. Nepal, whose index of per capita food production has improved marginally, still depends on import for most of its food items including cereals, pulses and fish, while Bangladesh is more or less self-sufficient in rice but imports wheat.
Afghanistan, Bhutan and the Maldives depend on import of most food items to meet their domestic demand, while Sri Lanka meets nearly 99 per cent of its rice requirements internally but imports 97 per cent of its demand for pulses.
Inaugurating the two day symposium on Best Practices in Poverty Alleviation in South Asia 2013 and launching the SAARC Regional Poverty Profile 2009-10, here today, chairman of the Interim Election Council Khil Raj Regmi said that youth, women and small farmers have to be mainstreamed and empowered to address the food security issue and achieve the over-arching goal of poverty alleviation in the region. “However, nearly a quarter of population has been lifted out of poverty in last two decades.”
Likewise, secretary general of SAARC Ahmed Saleem on the occasion, reminded that SAARC nations had decided the decade of 2006-2015 as the SAARC Decade of Poverty Alleviation.
Caitlin Wiesen, manager of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for Asia Pacific Region, said some 540 million people – out of the 600 million world's poor – live in South Asia. “It calls for a concentrated effort to address the problem,” she said, adding that rapidly approaching deadline of 2015 MDGs has also forced South Asia to focus on poverty alleviation. “Though, the number of urban poor is increasing, the UNDP is joining hands with the region to fight against urban and slum poverty.”
The two-day symposium will help develop strategies and may be also replicate the best practices in the region, said National Planning Commission (NPC) vice chair Dr Rabindra Kumar Shakya, on the occasion. “Nepal has also highlighted its efforts to reduce poverty,” he said, adding that  the approach paper of the 13th five year plan has also targeted to bring the poverty to 18 per cent from the current 23.8 per cent.

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