The reverberating impact of last year’s escalated cost-of-living turmoil, exacerbated by soaring inflation, along with the persistent aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, is unabatedly driving individuals across Asia and the Pacific into the clutches of extreme poverty. This grim revelation comes to light in the recently unveiled report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
As of the past year, an alarming 155.2 million inhabitants in developing Asia and the Pacific, constituting a sobering 3.9 per cent of the regional populace, were ensnared by the dire grip of extreme poverty, as articulated by the ADB’s Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2023 report. This stark figure stands 67.8 million greater than projections untouched by the pandemic and the aggravated cost-of-living turmoil, as underscored by the comprehensive report.
The harrowing delineation of extreme poverty in this context is framed as subsisting on less than $2.15 a day, meticulously benchmarked to 2017 valuations and meticulously calibrated to consider purchasing power and the specter of inflation.
Starkly contrasted against pre-pandemic projections, the ADB projected in 2021 that the pandemic alone had thrust an additional 75 million to 80 million individuals into the abyss of extreme poverty, an unanticipated chasm from which escape remains elusive. In those calculations, the brutal definition of extreme poverty hinged on subsisting on less than $1.90 a day, predicated on 2011 values.
While strides are projected in eradicating poverty within developing Asia and the Pacific, the specter of vulnerability remains hauntingly tangible. The ADB envisages that by 2030, approximately 30.3 per cent of the region’s populace—roughly 1.26 billion souls—will straddle the precipice of economic fragility, tethered to an existence defined by living on $3.65 to $6.85 a day, meticulously gauged by 2017 metrics.
In the elucidating words of ADB Chief Economist Albert Park, “Asia and the Pacific is steadily recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, but the increased cost-of-living crisis is undermining progress toward eliminating poverty.”
The findings outlined in this report usher forth a stark reminder of the relentless interplay between economic vicissitudes and global health crises, intertwining to perpetuate cycles of impoverishment and resilience across the vibrant landscape of Asia and the Pacific.