Vienna , 04 May 2012 Schieder at ADB: Asia’s economic growth needs to close the gap between rich and poor

“In many ways, the economic development we have seen in recent years and decades in the Asia/Pacific Region is impressive. In 1990, 1.4 billion people in the region were living on less than US$1.25 per day, whereas by 2008, that number had been cut in half (to 754 million). However, at the same time we do have to recognise that – particularly in the countries with the strongest rates of growth – the gap between the social strata of rich and poor is growing, as well”, Andreas Schieder, Austrian Finance Secretary, stated. Representing Austria at the annual conference of the Asian Development Bank in Manila, Schieder said that a major challenge to the Asian region was to reduce massive social inequalities and to put greater efforts behind building a comprehensive growth strategy. Schieder underscored the extremely positive role that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has played over the course of the past year in dealing with the financial crisis and in general, and outlined further challenges facing the bank and the region.

Schieder said that the challenge to Asian Development Bank, as one of the largest lenders in the region, was to place greater emphasis on supporting projects and programmes designed to combat inequalities. “I fully and whole-heartedly support the Asian Development Bank’s agenda of supporting socially balanced growth.” He stated that most of the poor are still living in China and India, countries that have projected 2013 growth rates of 8.7% and 7.5%. “It might be possible to lift a significant number of the poor out of poverty if growth policies were focused on and targeted socially balanced, sustainable growth.”

Schieder also underscored the importance of the gender issue in connection with the ADB’s activities. “Although women are expected to perform crucial tasks in terms of the labour they contribute and the responsibilities they bear in developing societies, what we unfortunately continue to see is that they are still being disproportionately affected by poverty and that their access to educational and health care institutions, to economic opportunity, markets and resources is still limited. In these areas the continuing goal has to be to support and encourage the ADB’s partner countries to take clear and unambiguous steps to reduce these limitations. Clear policies are needed in this area: Women must be given the opportunity to participate as fully equal members of these societies.”