Poverty, growth and baseless anger

The economics of misplaced anger

Fast growing Asian countries have “eliminated” poverty at an astonishing speed, bringing people out of extreme poverty into mere gut-reaching poverty.

At first blush, the numbers are suggesting of a hopeful future. In 1990, about a third of the people in the world lived on less than US$1.90 a day. By 2013, it was just 10.7%. In actual numbers, that is 1.85 billion in 1990 compared to 767 million in 2013. A second glance puts in perspective the anger of many people in the world, and not in a good way.
In 1990, the bulk of global extreme poverty was in Asia, the most populous region in the world. Now it is in Africa, the most troubled region in the world.

We wrote about this with my colleagues in a series of stories in China Daily Asia Weekly last month to mark International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, which falls on 17 October. The World Bank says the number of people living in extreme poverty is falling by 88 million per year.

Before we start celebrating, though, let’s go back to that US$1.90 a day, which adds up to US$57 for a 30 day month or a whopping US$693.50 a year. To meet the threshold, a family of four would have to earn US$2,774 per year or US$231 per month. It is hard to imagine any place in the world where that is anywhere near enough.

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Asian cities need sustainability

Environment, productivity and work hours are all big issues

Asia is home to some of the largest urban centres in the world.

Jakarta, in Indonesia, is home to some 25 million people. Manila is huge. Tokyo and Seoul are both large. Smaller Hong Kong and Singapore are large by any standard. High urbanisation rates are making these cities even larger, but not necessarily more sustainable.

As Cornelia Zou reports in China Daily Asia Pacific last week the challenges are quite significant, but so are the opportunities for Asian cities to start taking issues of sustainability seriously and make significant leapfrogs in terms of the environments, quality of life, education, even work hours and governance.

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