7.4 million Filipinos at risk of poverty: ADB report

Manila – More than 7.4 million Filipinos are vulnerable to joining the ranks of the poor due to food insecurity and natural and economic shocks, according to a report published by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Friday.

In its report titled “Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2014,” ADB said more Filipinos could become poor after typhoon Haiyan wreaked havoc on the country last November.

The report proposed an “Asia-specific poverty line” which would factor in food insecurity and economic vulnerability. The Manila- based lender noted that the 1.25 U.S. dollars a day poverty threshold currently in use is not sufficient to capture the extent of poverty in the region. The extreme poverty line was largely based on African data and is considered outdated.

ADB said taking into account food insecurity and economic vulnerability in poverty measures would increase the number of poor people in Asia to 1.75 billion as of 2010 from the current estimation of 733 million.

In the Philippines alone, ADB said factoring in natural and economic shocks could cause 7.45 million people to slip into poverty.

Typhoon Haiyan alone, the report said, drove 1.5 million people into poverty. Also, about 4 million people who were displaced by the typhoon remain at “high risk” of becoming poor.

The report said financial crises also deepen poverty through higher unemployment, reduced working hours and salaries, price hikes, and cuts in public spending.

For one, the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis caused poverty incidence to rise by 8.9 percentage points in Indonesia and by 9 percentage points in the Philippines. The 2010 financial crisis also raised the poverty rate by 1.2 percentage points in Bangladesh and 1.5 percentage points in the Philippines.

ADB said food security can be improved by enhancing food availability through more rapid productivity and technological development, expanding affordability and access through targeted food aid for the poor and upgrading farm-to-fork infrastructure.

To manage increasing vulnerability, governments can invest in risk-mapping and disaster risk reduction efforts such as early warning systems and livelihood diversification. Source: Xinhua