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East Asia and Pacific

How to scale up financial inclusion in ASEAN countries

José de Luna-Martínez's picture
MYR busy market

Globally, around 2 billion people do not use formal financial services. In Southeast Asia, there are 264 million adults who are still “unbanked”; many of them save their money under the mattress and borrow from so-called “loan sharks”, paying exorbitant interest rates on a daily or weekly basis. Recognizing the importance of financial inclusion for economic development, the leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have made this one of their top priorities for the next five years.
Last week, the World Bank Group presented the latest data on financial inclusion in ASEAN to senior representatives of the ministries of finance and central banks of all 10 ASEAN member countries (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam). The session, held in Kuala Lumpur, is one of the joint activities the new World Bank Research and Knowledge Hub and Malaysia is undertaking to support financial inclusion around the world.

Malaysia’s long race to competitiveness

Laura Altinger's picture
Have you ever felt like you are in a race and each time you pass another competitor, more keep showing up ahead on the race track in an endless marathon? Well, countries striving to be competitive face a similar predicament. No matter how hard they try to improve their competitiveness, cut the red tape and reduce burdensome regulations, other countries are doing the same, but even quicker.

Malaysia is already a very competitive country. Today it ranks 18 out of 189 economies in the World Bank Group’s Doing Business Index. Yet, its ambition is to become more competitive. And it wants to overtake some countries on the way up. Malaysia has long recognized that a concerted cross-ministerial and public-private collaboration is needed to do just that.

Malaysia’s Special Task Force to Facilitate Business (PEMUDAH), was established in 2007 to improve the ease of doing business in Malaysia. Testament to its success was Malaysia’s surge to 6th position in the 2014 Doing Business, up from 12th place in 2013 and 18th in 2012, placing it in the same league as Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United States. But since then, Malaysia has been challenged to keep up with the rapid pace of business reforms across the globe.

สังคมสูงวัยในประเทศไทย – ใช้ชีวิตอย่างไรให้มั่งคั่งและยั่งยืน

Ulrich Zachau's picture
Also available in: English

ประเทศในอาเซียนกำลังก้าวเข้าสู่สังคมสูงวัย โดยเฉพาะประเทศไทยซึ่งมีจำนวนผู้สูงอายุเพิ่มขึ้นอย่างรวดเร็ว ในขณะนี้มีประชากรไทยที่มีอายุ 65 ปีหรือแก่กว่ามีจำนวนมากถึงร้อยละ 10 หรือมากกว่า 7 ล้านคน และภายในปี 2583 ประชากรในกลุ่มนี้จะเพิ่มจำนวนขึ้นถึง 17 ล้านคน ซึ่งมากกว่า 1 ใน 4 ของประชากรทั้งประเทศ ทั้งนี้ประเทศไทยยังมีส่วนแบ่งของจำนวนผู้สูงอายุมากที่สุดในกลุ่มประเทศที่กำลังพัฒนาในภูมิภาคเอเชียตะวันออกและแปซิฟิกเช่นเดียวกับประเทศจีน และจะกลายเป็นประเทศที่มีส่วนแบ่งของจำนวนผู้สูงอายุมากที่สุดในภูมิภาคภายในปี 2583 รายงานล่าสุดจากธนาคารโลก ‘Live Long and Prosper: Aging in East Asia and Pacific’ พูดถึงการก้าวเข้าสู่สังคมสูงวัยในภูมิภาคเอเชียตะวันออกและแปซิฟิก และได้นำเสนอวิธีการต่างๆ ที่แต่ละประเทศสามารถนำไปใช้แก้ปัญหา พร้อมชี้ให้เห็นถึงโอกาสที่เป็นประโยชน์ที่จะมาพร้อมกับปรากฎการณ์นี้

Aging in Thailand – How to live long and prosper

Ulrich Zachau's picture
Also available in: ภาษาไทย

Asian societies are aging, and Thailand is aging rapidly. Already over 10 percent of the Thai population, or more than 7 million people, are 65 years old or older. By 2040, a projected 17 million Thais above 65 years of age will account for more than a quarter of the population. Together with China, Thailand already has the highest share of elderly people of any developing country in East Asia and Pacific, and it is expected to have the highest elderly share by 2040. A recent World Bank report, Live Long and Prosper: Aging in East Asia and Pacific (pdf), discusses aging in Asia and how countries can address the resulting challenges, and take advantage of emerging opportunities.

In many ways, aging is a consequence of longer life expectancy due to development success in Thailand:  people live longer, and fertility has come down rapidly from the unsustainably high levels of earlier decades. However, every success brings new challenges and aging is no exception. For example, the size of the working age population in Thailand is expected to shrink over 10 percent by 2040. Thailand has exhausted its “demographic dividend”, and future growth and improvement in living standards will largely come from increases in productivity. In addition, households headed by elderly Thais are twice as likely to be poor as those in their 30s and 40s, and in most cases are not covered by formal sector pension schemes.


Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
Also available in: English
Panos Agency



How can rapidly aging East Asia sustain its economic dynamism?

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
Also available in: 中文
Panos Agency

In the last three decades, East Asia has reaped the demographic dividend. An abundant and growing labor force powered almost one-third of the region’s per capita income growth from the 1960s to the 1990s, making it the world’s growth engine.
Now, East Asia is facing the challenges posed by another demographic trend: rapid aging. A new World Bank report finds that East Asia and Pacific is aging faster – and on a larger scale – than any other region in history.
More than 211 million people ages 65 and over live in East Asia and Pacific, accounting for 36 percent of the global population in that age group. By 2040, East Asia’s older population will more than double, to 479 million, and the working-age population will shrink by 10 percent to 15 percent in countries such as Korea, China, and Thailand.
Across the region, as the working-age population declines and the pace of aging accelerates, policy makers are concerned with the potential impact of aging on economic growth and rising demand for public spending on health, pension and long-term care systems.
As the region ages rapidly, how do governments, employers and households ensure that hard-working people live healthy and productive lives in old age? How do societies in East Asia and Pacific promote productive aging and become more inclusive?

HIV in the Philippines: Up close and personal

Rennan Ocheda's picture
As a nurse manager assigned to the Taguig City Social Hygiene Clinic and Drop-In Center for more than a year now, I have gone through unpredictable, funny, scary, sad, happy, thrilling and worthwhile experiences that even in my wildest dreams I never imagined would happen in my life.
The days that I spent on the Big Cities project taught me how to handle different people from all walks of life, who were diagnosed HIV positive. Working there, I learned that HIV/AIDS does not choose its victims, whether rich or poor.
One of them happened to be my close friend. I really didn’t know how to tell him about his HIV status. It was hard… really hard to be his HIV counselor. It was difficult putting myself in his shoes, for example, when this diagnosis must’ve felt like the end of the world for him. But I knew that I had to be strong for my friend.
I wondered how I could help him if I wasn’t strong myself, so I promised him that I would do my best to support him, which was similar to what I do for other people living with HIV.

Solomon Islanders rising up Jacob’s Ladder of opportunity

Evan Wasuka's picture

Geographically, the capital of Solomon Islands, Honiara, is a hilly city, a maze of ridges and valleys.

In front of me, concrete steps descend 30 meters down the face of a ridge, winding their way down in a gravity-defying manner; nothing else stands on the slope, it’s simply too steep.

The steps are part of a system of footpaths that link communities of thousands of people below to the main public road above.

Over the past 60 years as Honiara has developed, so too have informal settlements. These are often located at the bottom of steep valleys without basic services such as roads, water and electricity.


Sutayut Osornprasop's picture
Also available in: English
A caretaker at an HIV testing facility in Bangkok, Thailand.
ผู้ดูแลศูนย์ตรวจเชื้อเอชไอวีในกรุงเทพฯ ประเทศไทย

ประเทศไทยยังคงเป็นหนึ่งในกลุ่มประเทศที่ได้รับผลกระทบจากการระบาดของเชื้อเอชไอวีมากที่สุดในทวีปเอเชีย ในปัจจุบันประชากรจำนวน 440,000 คนในประเทศติดเชื้อเอชไอวี และจำนวนผู้เสียชีวิตจากโรคฉวยโอกาสมีประมาณ 1,250 คน ต่อปี
แม้ว่าประเทศไทยเองจะได้รับการยกย่องในความพยายามที่จะควบคุมการแพร่ระบาดของเชื้อเอชไอวีในหมู่ผู้ขายและผู้ใช้บริการทางเพศ โดยเฉพาะอย่างยิ่งจากโครงการ 100% Condom Use แต่การตอบสนองต่อเรื่องนี้จากกลุ่มชายที่มีเพศสัมพันธ์กับชาย ยังคงจำกัดอยู่ในวงแคบ 

Five facts about rice and poverty in the Greater Mekong Sub-region

Sergiy Zorya's picture

The Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) is a major global rice producer and exporter but its population suffers from serious levels of poverty and malnutrition.
Spanning six countries – China, Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam – the region is home to 334 million people. Nearly 60 million of them are involved in rice production, growing collectively over 44% of the world’s rice. All of the countries, except China, are net exporters of rice. This means they have more rice available than required for domestic consumption. Yet, nearly 15% of the population is seriously malnourished and about 40% of children under five are stunted, in other words, too short for their age as a result of under nutrition.