The Asia-Pacific region has been steeled against the global recession by lessons learned from the 1997 economic crisis, but its resilience will continue to be chipped away unless several key issues are addressed, a top United Nations official cautioned today.
Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), singled out trade protectionism as a crucial problem that must be tackled.
“An early conclusion of the Doha round and more intraregional integration would provide new impetus to economic recovery,” she said at a panel which was part of ESCAP’s 65th annual session.
Further, Ms. Heyzer added, stable currency exchange and stepped up regional coordination is necessary so that “economic recovery evolved in line with a more sustainable and inclusive process of economic growth.”
Also at the panel, her counterpart for Europe, Jan Kubis, Executive Secretary for the Economic Commission for Europe (ECA), pointed out that no region is immune to the financial turmoil.
Regarding his own region, he said that extreme poverty had virtually been eliminated by the end of 2007, but “with higher food prices, falling employment opportunities, reduced remittances and strained safety nets, it is estimated that another 10 million people in the region have been pushed back into poverty.”
For his part, Abdoulie Janne of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said that the widely-held belief that the continent would be shielded from the crisis, due to its limited integration into the global finance structure, was too optimistic.
“We are now experiencing a slowdown in growth, declining exports, reduced tourism, investment flows, remittances and weakening currencies,” he noted.
Ms. Heyzer said that the current recession provides “an important window of opportunity for addressing longer-term issues,” calling for the laying of “economic and social foundations for a more inclusive development model that is based upon environmentally sound principles.”