The question of underdevelopment and poverty in Asia, as is the case of the other nation-states belonging to what has been termed as “South” remains a question that is rooted in the basic lack of access to resource ownership and to the means to generate and create wealth.
In many rural economies, for instance, a land resource is still a basic question, with some economies peaking to a scandalous proportion: 25 percent of the land resource is owned by the 75 percent of the people while 75 percent is owned by the 25 percent economic and political elite.
This is a trap that has beset many of the economies of Asia.
We add this to the lack of access to credit and the basic services and we have a tripod of problems that are explosive in nature, a social bomb that is ready to explode, and a social volcano that is ready to erupt anytime.
With these as the fundamental issues into analyzing what makes Asia sick, with about two-thirds of the world’s poor in its fold.
We have a trope here: in the bosom of a poor homeland are the citizens with not many choices except to go find the next excuse to be able to come to terms with the punishment of poverty.
In some instances, people turn to anything that can help them make sense out of this senselessness and non-sense.
People can turn to religion to imagine a better world.
People can turn to charismatic leaders that rally them into causes that address their disappointments and frustrations.
People can turn to dictators and despots just to make them see that to dream of the good life is possible.
Because religion can be instrumental to accounting self and social redemption and to consoling oneself that, indeed, life is just a passing fancy, that everything is magic, that the good life will be had in the afterlife because one has gone through life with grace and grandeur of spirit despite material depravity.
Because the charismatic leaders know how to extrapolate the endless possibilities of a political promise of creating a new society that is just and fair to all.
Because dictators and despots know how to capitalize on fear and terror, thus, making the subjects cowering and careful not to go against the wishes of the powerful and the invulnerable.
In all these, we see a collective vulnerability that is rooted in the incapacity of Asian economies to offer something better to the people.
In many accounts, the areas where there is much poverty are the very areas where the food is sourced because that is where the land is and not in the blighted cities doomed by cement and concrete.
But then, this is the reality in Asia: the many poor, the nameless poor, the countless poor, the poorest of the poor—they are all in the rural areas where land awaits for cultivation, where the plains and valleys are open for the tilling, and where the seas and rivers are always in their generous mood to offer something bountiful to the one who has the means to go and explore its rich resource.
The problem is a circle—and it is vicious.
The problem is also linked with the issue of human security.
At the 2005 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference, the Busan Declaration was univocal on the need for the 21 economies of Asia and the Pacific to address the question of terrorism.
While there could be other causes of terrorism, there is a link between the perceived causes of injustice in both national and international scope.
When more developed economies dominate other economies, this brings about a lopsided relationship.
Dominant economies may be perceived as the culprit—or the agents of international injustices.
Take trade, for instance.
When other economies, while signatory to a free trade agreement, are not given the same chance to play fair and square in the trade of goods and commodities, there is something unruly here.
The key in coming up with a credible human security agenda is to address the bases of Asia-Pacific insecurity.
On a national scope, the tripod of problems needs to be looked into with clear and committed insight.
In the regional scope, the question of solidarity among these economies—their term is “cooperation”—must be put to the test always by fiercely guarding the commitment to a free exchange of goods, commodities, and services.
Terrorism breeds on poverty.
Terrorism feeds on misery.
Terrorism is a child of national, regional, and global injustice and inequality.
For the Asia-Pacific region to get past—and graduate from--these continuing vulnerabilities, the leaders must sit down to work and pool their resources to create a better, more humane region.
Pub, INQ, V1N22, Nov. 2005