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Pandemic pushes back Asia Pacific’s fight against extreme poverty by 2 years: ADB

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New Delhi:  Had COVID-19 not struck, Asia Pacific could have brought down extreme poverty to a level achievable in 2020 itself, enabling more people to improve living standards from surviving at less than USD 1.90 per day, an ADB report said.

People surviving with less than USD 1.90 (about Rs 152) per day fall under extreme poverty.

The COVID-19 pandemic has set back the fight against poverty in Asia and the Pacific by at least two years, said the latest report by Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The Manila-headquartered multilateral funding agency said many living in the Asia Pacific region will likely find it harder than before to come out of extreme poverty.

“The region’s economic growth this year is expected to reduce extreme poverty — defined as living off less than USD 1.90 a day — to a level that would have been achieved in 2020 had the pandemic not happened,” according to Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2022 released on Wednesday.

Citing data simulations, ADB said those with lower pre-pandemic levels of social mobility, the ability to escape poverty, may witness “longer-lasting setbacks”. COVID-19 has interrupted a long trend of poverty reduction, it said, adding that despite the economies seeming to be recovering the progress remains uneven.

The pandemic may also have worsened forms of poverty beyond income, such as food insecurity and inadequate access to health services and education, said the report. “The poor and the vulnerable have been hit hardest by COVID-19, and while economies are recovering, many people may find that getting out of poverty is even more difficult than before,” ADB Chief Economist Albert Park stated.

Park said governments in the region should focus on resilience, innovation and inclusiveness to provide more balanced economic opportunities and greater social mobility for everyone.

Going ahead, the prevalence of extreme poverty in Asia Pacific is expected to come down below 1 per cent by 2030, while about 25 per cent population may reach at least the middle-class status, meaning to have income/consumption of USD 15 or more in a day (about Rs 1,197 per day) adjusted to purchasing power parity.

However, ADB said this outlook is threatened by differences in social mobility as well as other uncertainties.

“Developing Asia faces the potential for stagflation, ongoing conflicts involving key global actors, increased food insecurity, and energy price shocks.”

ADB has a total of 68 members of which 49 are from the Asia Pacific region.

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