Indonesia and the Philippines have 90% of Southeast Asia's poorest

New report finds that of the 36 million people living below the poverty line in Asean, 90% of them live in either the Philippines or Indonesia

Johanna Chisholm
November 21, 2017
Indonesia and the Philippines have 90% of Southeast Asia's poorest
Filipino construction workers take a nap during lunch break at a sidestreet in Pasay City, Philippines Photo: Francis R Malasig/EPA

In a report that tracks the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean) progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), researchers found that though some countries in Southeast Asia have made progress towards escaping poverty, there are still some who are struggling to get past the poverty line, more specifically, Indonesia and the Philippines.

The “Asean-China-UNDP Report on Financing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Asean” report found that within the region there are 36 million people living below the poverty line, and of those 36 million, 90% of them can be found in either the Philippines or Indonesia.

After launching the UNDP report’s findings in Jakarta on Friday, the deputy secretary-general of Asean for Asean socio-cultural community, Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee, remarked that there is still a positive outlook for Asean, despite the report’s overall findings.

“Asean’s greatest asset is its people and proper financing will enable them to reach their potential,” he said.

Listed as living on anything below $1.90 a day by the World Bank, the international poverty line is a measure that has witnessed a global decline in the number of people living below it in recent decades.

In 1990, there were about 1.9 billion people living below the poverty line, but recently that number has decreased to be 760 million.
The strides that the international community has made in decreasing the overall number of people living in extreme poverty is important to keep in mind when assessing Asean’s own development.

And the report released on Friday from the UNDP might initially impress upon the less sceptical reader that there is no reason for the people of Indonesia or the Philippines to celebrate their individual successes in working toward SDGs, an impression that would be false.

For instance, the Philippines and Indonesia both account for more than 350 million of the 649 million people living in Asean regions, meaning the high numbers of impoverished people living in these countries does not tell what the actual proportion of people living below the poverty line.

Another finding from the report worth mentioning was that Indonesia has made progress in these past few years towards reducing their own poverty, seeing the poverty rate decreasing at an average rate of 10% to 15% per year.

And of the 132 million people who were lifted out of poverty from 2000 to 2015, approximately 90% came from either Vietnam or Indonesia.
The Philippines, likewise, saw an overall trend towards decreasing extreme poverty in recent years. From 2005 to 2013, the poverty rate dropped from 17% to 12%.

In a statement from Asean, as was first reported by CNN, the member states said that they will need to take serious steps towards employing programs that eradicate poverty in the region so that they can achieve their wider Asean Vision 2025 goals.

Asean Vision 2025 is a goal that would see all member states sharing the vision for a politically secure, economically stable, socio-culturally peaceful and responsible community that supports a rules-based Asean by the year 2025.

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