Overview

East Asia and Pacific remained the world’s growth engine in 2013, accounting for over 40% of the increase in global output. In the short term, the region’s developing countries navigated the global economic crisis successfully, maintaining high growth. In the mid-term, ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth is a major challenge for the region that will require raising productivity and addressing wide-ranging vulnerabilities.

The proportion of people living in poverty in the region has steadily declined over the past 25 years. However, nearly 140 million (7%) of the region’s 2 billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day and another 300 million (15%) live on incomes between $1.25 and $2.00 a day. Countries in the region range from China, the world’s second largest economy, to the Pacific Island countries, some of the world’s smallest and most remote. Of all regions, East Asia and Pacific has the second highest number of fragile and conflict-affected states. More than 70% of the world’s natural disasters occur in this region, making it the most disaster-stricken region in the world, with Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines as a recent example of a major natural disaster.

The region faces huge infrastructure needs and rapid urbanization. As many as 130 million people have no access to power, and 600 million lack access to adequate sanitation. Rapid migration to cities is putting pressure on service delivery and leading to large urban slums, pollution, and environmental degradation.

Managing the effects of climate change and disaster risk, rapid urbanization, improving governance and institutions, and encouraging private-sector led growth to create jobs are critical to reduce poverty and build shared prosperity. Countries also need to prepare for volatility and shocks, by expanding safety nets to protect the poor and vulnerable.

Last Updated: Oct 07, 2014

The World Bank Group (WBG)’s strategic priorities for development in the East Asia Pacific region include:

  • Inclusion and empowerment
  • Jobs and private sector-led growth
  • Governance and institutions
  • Infrastructure and urbanization
  • Climate change and disaster risk management.

Growth and job creation are critical to reducing poverty and building shared prosperity, particularly because of the high rates of youth unemployment and the informality of the labor market in the region. The Bank also focuses on the cross-cutting themes of gender, fragility and conflict, and poverty analytics.

A priority for the region has been reengagement with Myanmar. After a nearly 25 year absence, the groundwork for re-engagement in Myanmar was laid when the Bank’s Board of Executive Directors endorsed an Interim Strategy for Myanmar in November 2012, reaffirming support for Myanmar government reforms to improve the lives of the people of Myanmar. This strategy focuses on accelerating poverty reduction by helping to reform institutions to deliver better services to people during Myanmar’s critical transition period. In January 2014, the World Bank Group announced plans for a $2 billion multi-year development program to support the government’s plan to deliver universal health care to citizens and to help everyone in the country gain access to electricity by 2030. The Bank is also helping the government to improve economic governance and create conditions for growth and jobs by providing policy advice and technical assistance. Consultations on the new Country Partnership Framework have just been completed.

To continue to address fragility and vulnerability in the Pacific Islands, the Bank has been scaling up its effort to assist Pacific Island countries in addressing their vulnerability to economic and natural shocks. These shocks result from the islands’ high exposure to natural disasters as well as from their small size and geographical isolation. To support recovery after Tropical Cyclone Ian struck in January 2014, the Bank provided $10 million in emergency grants and credits from the International Development Association’s (IDA) Crisis Response Window, and the innovative Pacific Catastrophic Risk Insurance Pilot project made a first payout of $1.3 million to Tonga to cover initial emergencies. Six Pacific Island countries – the Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu – participate in this pilot, which insures key public assets and helps Pacific Island countries quickly access post-disaster funding. Partners include the Asian Development Bank, the government of Japan, and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery.

The Bank approved $6.3 billion for East Asia and Pacific for 56 projects in fiscal year 2014. Support included $4.2 billion in IBRD loans and $2.1 billion in IDA commitments. The leading sectors were Transportation ($1.9 billion); Public Administration, Law, and Justice ($1.3 billion); and Energy and Mining ($827 million).

Last Updated: Oct 07, 2014

Here are a few highlights from development results.

Health

The China Tuberculosis Control Project was the largest tuberculosis control project funded by the World Bank in the world, covering 668 million people in 16 provinces. It registered and treated close to 1.6 million new patients. More than 1.5 million of these patients completed treatment (94.2%) and nearly 1.5 million patients were cured (93.8%).

Energy

The Renewable Energy and Rural Electricity Access Project (REAP) helped the Government of Mongolia complete its National 100,000 Solar Ger Electrification Program, which provided over half a million nomadic herders with access to electricity through portable solar home systems.

In Lao PDR, the Bank and IFC supported the Rural Electrification Project with investments, policy assistance and capacity building to help the country’s power utility extend the electricity grid to rural households, which account for almost 70% of the total population, and promote off-grid renewable energy throughout the country. Access to electricity increased to 80% from only 15% of households in 1995.

In Vietnam, over 2.7 million people in some of the poorest parts of the country gained access to electricity as 555,327 households were connected to the national grid through the Second Rural Energy Project.

Water Supply and Sanitation

A series of Bank interventions in the Philippines implemented by the Manila Water Company, Inc., have contributed to a dramatic increase in 24-hour water supply from 26% in 1997 to 99% in 2009. The number of people served with safe drinking water doubled from 3.1 million in 1997 to 6.1 million in 2009; mortality rates due to sickness from exposure to sewage contamination reduced by 20%.

Education

The Rural Education and Development (READ) Project has helped set up classroom libraries in all 383 primary schools in rural Mongolia, which until 2006 had almost no books. The project also helped put 200 new titles of children's books on the local market, delivered more than 676,000 books to classrooms and essentially turned students in grades 1-5 into regular readers and book authors.

Transport

Under the Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Project, over 1,300 km of Papua New Guinea’s national roads were maintained and restored. Along with other road maintenance and rehabilitation work of national and provincial roads and bridges, these upgrades have improved access to markets and suppliers, and families have experienced better access to education and health facilities.

Information and Communications Technology

Over the last seven years, more than two million people in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands gained access to mobile phones thanks to an increase in provider options facilitated by the World Bank. In countries like Vanuatu, eight in 10 people now have a mobile phone connection (a 70% increase from 2007), and call prices have dropped substantially.

Last Updated: Oct 07, 2014

Knowledge continues to be a strategic priority in the Bank’s partnerships. This fiscal year, the Bank and the Development Research Center of China’s State Council published a seminal study on urbanization titled Urban China: Toward Efficient, Inclusive, and Sustainable Urbanization. The report is already having an impact on the country’s urbanization process. It contains many lessons for other countries facing similar challenges.

In December 2013, the Bank opened a new office in Songdo, Republic of Korea, and a liaison office in Seoul to support a broad range of development partnership opportunities to leverage Korea’s expertise in areas such as economic development policy, information and communication technology, infrastructure, and the financial sector. The Bank also announced plans to open an office in Kuala Lumpur, deepening its relationship with Malaysia.

The Bank continues to build partnerships with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Pacific Island Forum, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Australian Government Overseas Aid Program (AusAID), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and many other organizations to maximize development impact.

Last Updated: Oct 07, 2014


Economic Update

East Asia and Pacific Economic Update, April 2015

Growth of developing economies in East Asia are projected to ease slightly in 2015 and 2016, but the region will still account for one-third of global growth.





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