Who are the poorest in SE Asia?

Filipinos and Indonesians make up 90 percent of the 36-million people living below the poverty line in Southeast Asia, but poverty rates are on a “downward but fluctuating trend” in the Philippines, having gone down from 17 percent in 2005 to 12 percent in 2013.

This and other insights were released in a report of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations titled “Financing the Sustainable Development Goals in Asean: Strengthening integrated national financing frameworks to deliver the 2030 Agenda.”

Manila hosted the 31st Asean Summit and the country celebrated the regional bloc’s 50th anniversary last week, while drawing leaders and

The development report, however, was launched Friday in Jakarta, Indonesia by the ASEAN, the United Nations Development Program and the People’s Republic of China, which teamed up for the document.

The report focuses on how to streamline development financing in Southeast Asia, stressing China’s “strengthened” role of financing in Asean.

“China is ready to work even more closely with Asean countries to seek greater synergies between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity 2025, enhance infrastructure building and connectivity across the region,” said Xu Bu, the Permanent Representative of the Mission of China to Asean, in the report.

“Asean’s greatest asset is its people and proper financing will enable the people of Asean to reach their potential. This publication provides us with an understanding on the scale and mix of financing in the Asean region and the opportunities that can be explored to maximize financing for SDGs,” added Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee, the Deputy Secretary-General for Asean Socio-Cultural Community.

The document noted that extreme poverty in the region of over 600-million people fell to seven percent as of 2013 from 17 percent in 2005.

“Progress is being made in key areas of health such as maternal mortality and tuberculosis prevalence, which are falling in almost all countries. Access to education has grown and is now above 95 percent at primary level in all countries,” it said.

The scale of the challenges to meet the SDGs, however, is “significant,” the report noted.

“Even in the countries and regions where extreme poverty has fallen significantly, there remain many working poor, vulnerability to falling back into poverty is high and a ‘missing middle’ is experiencing rising incomes, but lacks access to basic services,” it said.

Mobilizing the right scale and mix of finance—and leveraging the synergies between flows—is essential for achieving the SDGs, the report added.

Low levels of domestic revenue mobilization “limit the ability of governments to fund services and

public investment,” the report said. While domestic revenues are rising, “they remain below $600 per person (less than $2 a day) in six Asean countries”―Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines, which saw government revenues equivalent to just $495 per person in 2015.

During the Asean Summit, Assistant Secretary Lyndon Lee Suy of the Department of Health said the Philippines’ counterparts in the region have committed to addressing malnutrition, anti-microbial resistance and disaster health management.

The Philippines is inclined toward healthy lifestyle policies such as President Rodrigo Duterte’s smoking ban in public areas, Suy said.