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Marilene Montemayor

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East Asia and Pacific Overview

East Asia and Pacific remains the world’s growth engine despite a challenging external environment, with developing economies in the region growing by 7.2% in 2013.

The proportion of people living in poverty in the region has steadily declined. Today, it is estimated that less than 10% of the region’s population lives on $1.25 a day. However, much more work needs to be done to build shared prosperity because there are still close to half a billion people living on $2 per 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. Sustaining 61% of global losses from disasters in the past 20 years, it is the most disaster-stricken region in the world, with Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines as the latest example of a major natural disaster.

In the short term, developing countries in the region have navigated the global economic crisis successfully and maintained high growth. In the mid-term, ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth is a major challenge for the region, which will require more and better quality investments in infrastructure and in the skills of the growing labor force.

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: Mar 25, 2014

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

  • Poverty reduction and shared prosperity
  • Disaster risk mitigation and climate change
  • Infrastructure and urbanization
  • Job creation and private sector-led growth
  • Governance and institutions

The region’s diversity requires delivering a customized combination of solutions to meet each country’s unique challenges and build on opportunities.

The Region is increasing collaboration among the Bank, IFC and MIGA by pursuing joint WBG business strategies in six countries—in Indonesia to build the financial sector; in Mongolia to improve livelihoods through agriculture; in the Pacific to increase women’s empowerment; in the Philippines to improve agribusiness in Bangsamoro, a post conflict zone; in Vietnam to promote efficiency and value addition in agriculture, and in Myanmar to expand access to electricity and healthcare.

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 line with this strategy, the Bank is supporting the $80 million National Community Driven Development Project to help realize the Government’s goal of “people-centered” development and the $140 million Myanmar Electric Power Project to help address the country’s urgent energy needs. 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 upcoming Country Partnership Framework are now underway.

The Region’s strategy also focuses on fragile and conflict-affected countries, and on disaster risk management. To address fragility in the Pacific Islands, the Bank is promoting good economic management; global and regional integration by supporting airports, telecommunications and fisheries; resilience to natural disasters and economic shocks; and women’s economic empowerment. To help the Philippines’ reconstruction efforts after Typhoon Haiyan, the World Bank Group is providing almost $1 billion.

The Bank approved $6.2 billion for East Asia and Pacific for 47 projects in fiscal year 2013. Support included $3.6 billion in IBRD loans and $2.6 billion in IDA commitments, including $125 million in grants. The leading sectors were Public Administration, Law, and Justice ($1.4 billion); Transportation ($1.1 billion); and Water, Sanitation and Flood Protection ($1 billion).

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2014

Here are a few highlights from development results.


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%).


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%.


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.


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.

Disaster reconstruction

Eight years since a devastating tsunami struck the provinces of Aceh and Nias in Indonesia, the Multi-Donor Fund, which pooled a total of $655 million in grants from 15 donors, closed in December 2012. The Fund, managed by the Bank, achieved the reconstruction or rehabilitation of some 20,000 houses, over 3,000 km of village roads, nearly 10,000 local infrastructure projects, over 1,200 public buildings, and five national and international ports. Lessons from this program are contributing to the Haiyan Recovery and Reconstruction Plan in the Philippines.

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2014

Cooperation with countries and bilateral and multilateral institutions, and collaboration within the Bank Group, are integral to the Bank’s work in the region. The Bank is working with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Pacific Island Forum, the Asian Development Bank, the Australian Government Overseas Aid Program (AusAID), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and many other partners to expand development impact. Knowledge has an increasingly important role in the Bank's partnerships with clients. For example, in 2012 the Bank and China launched a knowledge hub focusing on urban transport, and a major joint report on urbanization was published on March 25, 2014.

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2014
Economic Update
East Asia and Pacific Economic Update, April 2014

Region remains the engine of global growth and 2014 GDP forecast for developing countries is 7.1%, but structural reforms are key to long-term growth and prosperity. Read More »

Around The Bank Group

Find out what the Bank Group's branches are doing in East Asia and Pacific.