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Global financial crisis will hit Asia-Pacific hard

ASIAN and Pacific countries are particularly vulnerable to the triple threat of food and fuel price volatility, climate change and the global economic crisis, a United Nations agency said yesterday.

This is because the region has almost two thirds of the world's poor and half of its natural disasters, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) said in a regional survey.

The emergence of all three crises at the same time has "hit the world's poor the hardest, two thirds of whom live in the Asia-Pacific," said ESCAP Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer.

"It is clear that a more inclusive model for economic growth is required to address their needs.

"This requires setting up social-protection systems that increase income security and free up the spending power of middle and lower-income people who drive the economy."

The bigger role many governments are having in the economy through increased public spending gives them an opportunity to draw up development policies that are more inclusive and sustainable, ESCAP said.

ESCAP forecasts developing Asian economies will still manage to grow by 3.6 percent this year after 5.8 percent last year. But that masks wide regional variations, with China forecast to grow 7.5 percent and Kazakhstan 1.5 percent. But the developed economies of Japan, Australia and New Zealand will contract by a combined 2.2 percent after growing 2.6 percent last year, it said.

One of ESCAP's functions is to promote economic and social progress in the region, and a UN official conceded that the forecasts, based on data at the end of February, could be on the optimistic side.

Asian countries have been particularly badly hit by the slowdown in global trade - forecast by the World Trade Organization to contract 9 percent this year - as demand shrivels in advanced economies.


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