MANILA — About 36 million “poorest of the poor” continue to live in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) with 90 per cent of them located in Indonesia and the Philippines, according to a just-released report.
The report underscored the importance for Asean as a region and its member states in their national capacity, to identify how to finance poverty eradication programmes to realise the Asean Vision in 2025.
“An estimated 36 million people in the region still live below the international poverty line, with about 90 per cent of these people living in Indonesia and the Philippines,” the report pointed out.
The report was prepared by the Asean Socio-Cultural Community chaired by Thailand in co-ordination with China and the UN Development Programme.
Demographers explained the figures were not surprising, pointing out that Indonesia and the Philippines are the most populous among the Asean members, that also include Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma).
Latest official data showed that Indonesia is the most populous member with over 257 million people, followed by the Philippines with 100 million, comprising more than half of the Asean’s total population of 639 million.
The report acknowledged that the Asean, as a whole, has made significant progress in reducing the number of their poorest of the poor, which was reduced to seven per cent in 2013 from a high of 17 percent in 2005.
“But many of the working poor,” it emphasised, “remain vulnerable to falling back into poverty” unless the members take more positive steps in their poverty eradication programmes.
In particular, the report pointed out that Asean has made significant progress in addressing infectious diseases but challenges remain as it now faces the rising rate of non-communicable ailments.
But this could be achieved, the report pointed, out, through the effective implementation of universal health coverage (UHC) and cited as examples the progress achieved by Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
Singapore provides UHC through a contribution-based system that includes a social assistance component while Brunei, Malaysia and Thailand achieved this through a tax-funded system, according to the report.