Despite COVID-19, Asia remains the greatest contributor to global poverty reduction
By Tao Zihui  ·  2020-12-23  ·   Source: Web Exclusive

The launch of the Boao Forum for Asia’s Asia Poverty Reduction Report 2020 in Beijing on December 15 (COURTESY PHOTO)
Asian countries have grown into the world’s leading contributors to the cause of poverty reduction, Ban Ki-moon, Chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) and former UN Secretary General, said on December 15. 
Ban made the remarks via video link during a news conference in Beijing, releasing the BFA Asia Poverty Reduction Report 2020. The report showcases how far Asian countries have come in lifting millions out of poverty.  
"In 1990, more than half of the world's extremely poor lived in Asia, but this figure dropped to only 6.4 percent in 2015," Ban said, adding that by 2019, more than half of Asian countries had achieved, on average, a poverty reduction rate of more than 1 percent per year since first recorded.  
Thanks to its economic growth, Asia’s economic and social transformation has dramatically changed the landscape of the global economy and poverty management. As of 2019, the poverty incidence rates of developing countries in Asia had fallen below 3 percent. When measured by income poverty markers, the incidence rate of extreme poverty in Asia is only 1.85 percent.  
Despite the flurry of challenges ahead, Asian countries are now taking the lead in global poverty reduction, China being a major contributor. 
In early December, China announced that it had achieved the goal of eradicating extreme poverty by the end of this year, making itself the first developing country to reach the “No Poverty” goal of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.   
"Such a remarkable achievement is a 'miracle' in human history," Ban said.
He said that the success of China, among other Asian countries, is not only proof of feasibility, but also counts as a valuable lesson that will empower other developing countries on their way toward sustainable development. 
The sudden onset of the pandemic that pummeled the Chinese economy and had an outsized impact on the poor compounded the difficulties in meeting the poverty relief target, Li Baodong, BFA Secretary General, said. 
"Rather than stalling progress in poverty eradication, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a litmus test for the people-centered principle and the Chinese Government’s perseverance in its poverty reduction endeavor," Li said. 
Nonetheless, in facing the fallout from the ongoing pandemic, Asian countries have yet much to improve in infrastructure, public services, and contingency management capabilities given that their disadvantaged groups are particularly vulnerable to the widespread negative impact of the public health crisis. 
The COVID-19 pandemic has mainly affected the employment of middle- and lower-income groups across Asia. In South Asia, particularly, with its vulnerable social security systems, it is relatively easy for people to fall into the poverty trap as incomes decline, Li Xiaoyun, a professor at China Agriculture University, said.  
"Asian countries need a new poverty reduction strategy," he said, adding that in the post-pandemic era, poverty reduction remains a common challenge for Asian countries.  
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon 
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