No swerving from poverty elimination goal

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Between 88 million and 115 million people could fall into extreme poverty this year as a result of the global health crisis. AFP

The latest report from the World Bank projects that the global pandemic will push hundreds of millions of people in the developing world back into poverty.

Depending on countries’ responses as well as the extent of economic contraction, the World Bank Group’s biennial Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report estimates that in 2020, between 88 million and 115 million people could fall into extreme poverty as a result of the global health crisis, with an additional increase of between 23 million and 35 million people next year, potentially bringing the total number of people newly pushed into extreme poverty to between 110 million and 150 million. The crisis is also poised to increase inequality in much of the world.

With economies forced into stagnation as businesses suspend their activities or close, global growth is anticipated to drop 5.2 per cent this year, the largest drop in 80 years. And a recovery may take as long as a decade, according to some less-than-optimistic forecasts.

Although the consequences of the pandemic are being felt worldwide, South Asia will be the region hardest hit, according to the report. It projects 49 million to 57 million additional people in the region will be pushed into extreme poverty.

Sub-Saharan Africa will be the next most affected region, with between 26 million and 40 million additional people pushed into extreme poverty. And more than four-fifths of the total new poor, some 72 million people, are anticipated to be in middle-income countries.

For global poverty alleviation endeavours, which have been making headway over the past decades, this is a severe setback. Some progress made in the past may evaporate overnight, as the global scope of extreme poverty is already expected to rise for the first time in 20 years.

Stagnant national economies are directly affecting the life quality of all income groups, the middle- and low-income groups in particular.

In part because of its timely, forceful, and effective pandemic containment regime, China has emerged from the pandemic relatively early and is already on track toward full recovery. But that alone does not mean it does not have to worry. The drain of manufacturing jobs in the export-oriented coastal belt is only part of the pandemic’s impact on the Chinese economy. And as the recession broadens and deepens overseas, the negative effects will be felt more dearly at home.

Nonetheless, the country is persevering with its ambitious campaign to declare an official end to extreme poverty nationwide, despite the unanticipated pressure from the bleak economic reality.

That means, as President Xi Jinping has stressed, efforts must be made to make up for the time lost and the damage incurred due to the pandemic.

Thus the finishing touches to achieve that goal will entail greater efforts in the poorest communities to lift people out of poverty and prevent people falling back in.

CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK