Extreme poverty has declined faster here than in any other region, falling from 80 percent in 1981 to an estimated 7.2 percent in 2012. Even with this remarkable progress, however, some 90 million people still live in extreme poverty—and another 250 million are vulnerable to falling back into extreme poverty as a result of climate change, natural disasters, disease, and economic shocks. Economic inequality is high in many countries even though the incomes of the bottom 40 percent of the population in most countries have been rising more rapidly than the incomes of the rest of the population. Income inequality partly reflects inequality of opportunity, including differential access to health services and education.
World Bank assistance
The Bank approved $7.5 billion for 41 projects in the region this fiscal year, including $5.2 billion in IBRD loans and $2.3 billion in IDA commitments. The Bank’s strategy in the region focuses on five areas: inclusion and empowerment, jobs and private sector–led growth, governance and institutions, infrastructure and urbanization, and climate change and disaster risk management. The cross-cutting themes of gender and fragility are also central to the Bank’s work in the region.
Combating malnutrition and improving health
The region is the epicenter of the double burden of stunting and obesity—both forms of malnutrition. Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Vietnam are among the 34 countries that account for 90 percent of the global burden of stunting. China and Indonesia are among the 10 countries that account for more than 50 percent of the global burden of obesity.
Stunting significantly reduces the physical and mental capabilities of children, imposing enormous human and economic costs. In Indonesia, for example, where 37 percent of children are stunted, economic losses associated with stunting are estimated at 2–3 percent of GDP.
The Bank’s strategy to combat malnutrition promotes collaboration with policy makers, civil society, the private sector, and development partners to boost investment in nutrition and research to inform policy responses. The Bank is also investing in nutrition projects such as the National Program for Community Empowerment (PNPM Generasi) in Indonesia, which is helping to improve maternal and child health. In one of the country’s poorest provinces, the project helped to decrease the incidence of underweight and severely underweight children by 20 percent and 33 percent, respectively, and stunting decreased by 21 percent.
Bolstering climate change mitigation and resilience
The region includes 13 of the 30 countries that are most vulnerable to climate change. It also bears the brunt of 70 percent of the world’s natural disasters, which have affected more than 1.6 billion people in the region since 2000. Particularly hard hit have been the Pacific Island countries, where the rising sea level is threatening coastal areas and atoll islands.
East Asia and Pacific is also the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for a third of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions and 60 percent of its coal consumption. The region is therefore critical for advancing the global climate change agenda. To do so, the Bank is working with governments, the private sector, and other development partners on a range of innovative solutions to support greener and cleaner energy policies, including carbon pricing.
The Bank also helps clients to adopt climate-smart approaches in areas such as urban development and agriculture. Beijing, for example, is striving to become a model for other Chinese cities in promoting resource-efficient and environmentally friendly urban economic growth. With support from the Bank, it installed 100 megawatts of rooftop solar photovoltaic systems in 800 primary and middle schools. In Vietnam, the use of climate-smart approaches to rice cultivation has helped more than 30,000 farmers produce more rice while cutting costs and reducing methane emissions.
Fostering knowledge partnerships for development solutions
The Bank continued to deepen its knowledge and research partnerships to help clients identify solutions to their evolving development challenges with Vietnam 2035: Toward Prosperity, Creativity, Equity, and Democracy, which examines how Vietnam can become a modern industrial nation in 20 years. The Bank expanded its partnerships with nonborrower member countries this year, opening an office in Kuala Lumpur in March. The new Malaysia office, along with the office in Songdo, Republic of Korea, and the Singapore Global Infrastructure Hub, are intended to generate and share development knowledge, lessons, and solutions with countries in the region and across the globe.
Further Information: World Bank's East Asia and Pacific Region homepage »