Asian countries urged to set up ‘hunger fund’By Ronnel W. Domingo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The Asian Development Bank called on member countries, including the Philippines, to each set up a “hunger alleviation fund” as poor Asians continue to go hungry despite dynamic growth in the region.
In a report titled “Food Security and Poverty in Asia and the Pacific,” ADB said governments must provide well-targeted safety nets to protect and feed the poor.
The report came out just as the Social Weather Stations released the results of its latest poll, which showed that more Filipino families considered themselves poor in terms of the type of food they eat.
Asia is still home to two-thirds of the world’s poor and more than three-fifths of the world’s underfed, chief economist Changyong Rhee said in a foreword to the ADB report.
“Progress in food security has been nearly stagnant since the mid-1990s and the absolute number of undernourished people in the region has increased as a result of rapid population growth,” Rhee said.
The report, which was released Friday, said governments must find ways to reduce food waste and storage losses and encourage rural development.
Xianbin Yao, director general of ADB’s Pacific department, said in a briefing that, with the global population now exceeding seven billion, food security and the rise in food prices should be “something to be concerned about.”
Based on ADB estimates, 112 million people in Asia could have escaped poverty each year had prices not increased during the 2007-2008 food crisis, Yao added.
The ADB report proposed that a hunger alleviation fund amounting to one percent of a country’s gross domestic product be used when food prices grow beyond the reach of the poor.
“The funds could be jointly managed with the private sector, with companies encouraged to contribute using incentives such as tax breaks,” the report added. “Targeted subsidies would deliver help to those who need it most.”
Also, Yao called for a new growth paradigm that would focus on support for the agriculture sector to generate more income opportunities in rural areas.
He said rural development is critical in addressing hunger and, as with the Green Revolution of the 1970s, agricultural research focusing on biotechnology should be harnessed as a key tool in improving food security and reducing poverty.