Finance and social sector Ministers from Asia and the Pacific meet to brainstorm quality investments that will improve children’s lives
Ha Noi, Viet Nam, 24 September 2012 – Government representatives from 16 countries across East Asia and the Pacific began a three-day meeting today, convened by the Vietnamese Ministry of Finance and UNICEF, to discuss ways to align fiscal and social policies to sustain growth in the current uncertain global economic environment and to reduce growing disparities that put future growth at risk.
Economic growth in the region over the past two decades has been tremendous. It has lifted millions of people out of poverty. Critical social indicators have also shown remarkable progress. There has been a 68 per cent drop in child mortality since 1990 and the vast majority of the region’s children now receive a primary school education.
However, as Vuong Dinh Hue, Viet Nam’s Minister of Finance, explained, “Global economic instability persists. This poses a risk to the financial stability of current social policies to protect children and promote equality.” “Even though some favorable social policies have been adopted or strengthened in recent years, protecting children from crises and reducing disparities are still an unfinished agenda,” he explained.
This success, while laudable, hides growing disparities in many countries and the deepening poverty for millions of people. Disaggregated data shows that far too many families in the region are still bypassed by both the economic and social benefits of this newfound prosperity. They do not have access to essential social services like healthcare and education, because they are poor, because they live in rural or remote areas, because they are migrants, or because they belong to minority ethnic groups.
“Disparities come with a cost – a cost to children, to families, to societies and to nations,” said Dan Toole, UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific. “Economic development and social development are inseparable. Economic policies that enhance human capital by improving the health and nutrition of a population, improving access to, and the quality of education, and preventing child maltreatment, contribute significantly to the fiscal well-being of countries.”
If countries in this region are to sustain the rapid growth of the last twenty years, careful, expert planning to build healthy, well-educated and engaged populations is vital. The three day meeting, convened by UNICEF and the Ministry of Finance of Viet Nam, aims to strengthen coordination between key public finance and social policy makers across East Asia and the Pacific so they can identify quality investments in children that will reduce disparities and equip societies for a prosperous future.
“In recent years, Viet Nam has paid special attention to social policies to support children in the region. This year, for the first time, Viet Nam’s Ministry of Finance and UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office are convening ministries of finance, ministries of health, education and labour and social welfare from over a dozen countries in the region to participate in this conference to exchange views and experience in public finance, social policies and children. I hope knowledge shared in this conference will help the Governments identify and implement policies effectively to protect children and reduce disparities”, said Minister Hue.
“Sustaining and expanding the growth of the last two decades is the challenge of the next two decades. Greater cooperation between ministries of Finance, Health, Education and Social Welfare will be the key to meeting this challenge,” said Toole said.