ASEAN Must Improve Quality of Life for Faster Post-Covid Development

The member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should focus on boosting quality of life to accelerate a resilient and sustainable recovery from the pandemic, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a report on 25 May.  

ASEAN countries need to shift their focus from meeting basic development targets to achieving success in areas like reading, math and science, better nutrition, and access to quality healthcare, the report says.

The pandemic pushed back progress on various socioeconomic fronts in the region by several years. Now member states will need to find pathways for accelerated growth, and the entire ASEAN community will need to ensure that development gaps are reduced, ADB said in the report.

ASEAN member countries must boost investments in infrastructure, digital skills, and finance in order to reduce the cost of business and build a more competitive region, according to the report. To tackle food insecurity, ASEAN governments could offer incentives to farmers to plant fortified grains and target their distribution to areas with high prevalence of malnutrition or hunger, instead of providing subsidies to consumers.

In environment and climate change issues, much work is needed to ensure environmental protection in the region. None of the ASEAN members have reached targets to conserve at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas as of 2021, the report found.

“As the region emerges from the pandemic, fortifying health systems, raising the quality of education, and improving nutrition will equip our young workers physically, mentally, and emotionally and improve their productivity,” ADB Director General for Southeast Asia Winfried F. Wicklein said.

“While the regional bloc has demonstrated resilience since the outbreak of the pandemic, emerging challenges hold back its full recovery. The attainment of upward income convergence, a rapid reduction in extreme poverty rates, and improvement in financial inclusion and internet penetration rates will help the region overcome reversals in development gains caused by the pandemic,” Wicklein added.