Reducing impact of disasters key to fighting poverty in Asia - expert

By May Masangkay, Kyodo

Posted at Aug 29 2014 12:13 PM | Updated as of Aug 29 2014 08:13 PM

TOKYO - Reducing the Asia-Pacific region's vulnerability to natural disasters is vital in helping the region combat poverty and spur economic growth, an expert of the Asian Development Bank said Thursday.

"Addressing vulnerability and food insecurity should be important parts of anti-poverty strategies and economic growth," Juzhong Zhuang, ADB's deputy chief economist, said at a forum in Tokyo.

His remarks come as the region faces challenges caused by recent natural disasters such as the super typhoon that devastated the central part of the Philippines last year.

Referring to a chapter focused on Asian poverty in a recently released ADB report entitled, "Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2014," Zhuang said realities such as the impact of floods, earthquakes, storms and other catastrophes, as well as increases in the price of food are among the factors that are not taken into account in the current poverty rate for economies in the region.

"The headcount of extremely poor is substantially higher than by conventional measures" or when calculating the number of those who live below extreme poverty line of $1.25 a day, he said.

The ADB report said that a $1.51 a day Asia-specific, extreme poverty line increases the number of poor by 343.20 million from over 700 million under the globally accepted $1.25 a day poverty line.

Zhuang said poverty reduction remains a "challenge" to the region and urged policymakers to reflect the risks for the disaster-prone region and other factors in their measures to combat poverty.

More efforts are needed to make the region more resilient to natural disasters, he said, calling for stronger social assistance as well as making more use of disaster and crop insurance.