The economic performance of the Asia Pacific region grew stronger last year following an impressive recovery after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, according to a United Nations economic survey released today.
The Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific, 2001 shows growth rates in the developing countries of the region increasing by 1 per cent, while the developed economies improved their collective growth rate by 1.3 percentage points.
The Survey attributes these welcome developments to "a favourable external environment, reflected in the buoyancy of world trade, combined with domestic measures to improve and sustain the momentum of growth." These two factors, in turn, enhanced corporate and consumer confidence.
"All in all, the region seems to be less vulnerable to outward negative pressures than was the case back in 1997 when the crisis hit quite a number of important, dynamic Asian economies," Bagher Asadi, the current Chairman of the Ministerial-Level Commission of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), told reporters at a press conference in New York.
Mr. Asadi said maintaining growth would be the major challenge ahead for the region "especially in the face of the likely unfavourable external environment." He said national and regional initiatives would be needed in response, particularly a continued commitment to macroeconomic stability. The Survey calls for economic policies that support the private sector, which Mr. Asadi said "should be able to perform on its own."
Pointing to demographic pressures on the region, he noted that the region, which already has 3.7 billion people, was expected to see an increase in its population to 4.7 billion by 2025. He said a lasting approach to this issue would require attention to reproductive health, gender equality and the empowerment of women as advocated at the UN's 1994 International Conference on Population and Development.
Among its recommendations, the report calls for countries of the region to adopt consistent macroeconomic policies, rationalize their taxation and expenditures, enhance budgetary transparency, and strengthen the banking sector.