90 percent of Southeast Asia’s poor live in Indonesia and the Philippines
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90 percent of Southeast Asia’s poor live in Indonesia and the Philippines

A HUGE proportion of those living under the poverty line in Southeast Asia are Indonesians and Filipinos, a new report has shown.

A report tracking Asean’s progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) found that while the 10 member states of the bloc have made significant progress towards eradicating extreme poverty, many working poor across the region remain vulnerable to falling back into poverty.

Launched in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Friday, the Asean-China-UNDP Report on Financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Asean report stated that across the region some 36 million people live below the international poverty line of US$1.90 per day – 90 percent of whom are in Indonesia and the Philippines.

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Juanita Espinosa sits and enjoys a sunset in front of her house in the slum ‘Smokey Mountain’ in Manila, Philippines. Source: AP

The high numbers of impoverished people in Indonesia and the Philippines be explained by their relative population size – accounting for more than 250 million and 100 million out of Asean’s roughly 700 million people, respectively.

Indonesia has nevertheless made great strides in reducing poverty said the report, with the poverty rate decreasing by an average of 10 to 15 percent every year.

Out of an estimated 132 million people lifted out of extreme poverty in the Asean region during the Millenium Development Goal (MDG) era from 2000 to 2015, Indonesia and Vietnam’s citizens accounted for a whopping 90 percent.

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Some 40 million Indonesians were lifted out of poverty between 2006 and 2014.

Likewise, the Philippines had also made progress in poverty alleviation efforts, with the poverty rate decreasing from 17 percent in 2005 to 12 percent in 2013. According to the report, national measures indicate the downward trend has continued.

Rates of malnutrition remain high in the three least developed nations of Asean – Cambodia, Laos and Burma (Myanmar) – and in Indonesia and the Philippines. More than 30 percent of the population of these countries has suffered from stunting, said the report.

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Vietnamese primary school students wave Chinese flags during a welcoming ceremony for China’s President Xi Jinping’s at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Nov 12, 2017. Source: Reuters/Na Son Nguyen/Pool

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Significant progress in terms of education has been made across Asean, with primary school completion rates above 95 percent in all 10 countries. Challenges remain for the secondary school sector, however, wherein Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Burma enrolment rates are the lowest regionally. Quality of education also remains a “major concern” in some countries, it said.

Deputy Secretary-General for Asean Socio-Cultural Community Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee said that “this publication provides us with an understanding on the scale and mix of financing in the Asean region and the opportunities that can be explored to maximise financing for SDGs.”

China’s ambassador to Asean Xu Bu said that the country was ready to work even more closely with its partners in the region to achieve the SDGs, particularly through the country’s ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure initiative through which it will invest heavily in Southeast Asia.