ASEAN must shift from meeting basic development targets to ramping up efforts to improve quality of life across the region to build a resilient ASEAN and yield a faster recovery from the pandemic, says a new report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The region’s path to progress must increasingly focus on achieving success in areas like reading, math and science, better nutrition, and access to quality healthcare, says the report.
ASEAN needs to focus in boosting quality of life—ADB
At a glance
Southeast Asian nations must shift from meeting basic development targets to ramping up efforts to improve quality of life across the region to build a resilient region and yield a faster recovery, the Asian Development Bank (ABD) said.
In its report, “Narrowing the Development Gap: Follow-up Monitor on the ASEAN Framework for Equitable Economic Development,” ADB said the region’s path to progress must increasingly focus on achieving success in key areas.
These include reading, math, and science, better nutrition, and access to quality healthcare.
“As the region emerges from the pandemic, fortifying health systems, raising the quality of education, and improving nutrition will equip our young workers physically, mentally, and emotionally and improve their productivity,” ADB Director General for Southeast Asia Winfried F. Wicklein said.
“While the regional bloc has demonstrated resilience since the outbreak of the pandemic, Wicklein said emerging challenges hold back its full recovery.
“The attainment of upward income convergence, a rapid reduction in extreme poverty rates, and improvement in financial inclusion and internet penetration rates will help the region overcome reversals in development gains caused by the pandemic,” Wicklein said.
The ADB report then urged ASEAN member countries to invest in digital skills, infrastructure, and finance to reduce the cost of business and build a more competitive region.
In the wake of rising food prices, the report calls for improved efforts to tackle food insecurity.
Instead of providing subsidies to consumers, it suggests that governments offer incentives to farmers to plant fortified grains and target their distribution to areas with high prevalence of malnutrition or hunger.
ASEAN member countries also need to enhance health systems, including data systems for tracking diseases, to improve resilience against future pandemics, the ADB report stated.
“Strengthening monitoring and disease surveillance, particularly in highly populated areas and in remote rural areas, is crucial for ASEAN’s health security,” ADB said.
“Investments in surveillance can be effective in reducing deaths and diseases and yield faster economic recovery from the effects of the pandemic,” it added.
Following the 1996–1997 Asian Financial Crisis and the Global Financial Crisis of 2007–2008, ASEAN member countries made considerable progress in improving economic and human development outcomes.
But lockdowns implemented to curb the spread of Covid-19 led to a 3.2 percent contraction in gross domestic product in 2020.
While growth improved to 3.5 percent in 2021 and rose further to 5.6 percent in 2022, actual output in 2022 remained about 7.3 percent below pre-pandemic levels.
To reach zero poverty by 2030, the ADB report said that development gaps, which emerged due to Covid-19 lockdowns, must be bridged.