The unevenness of the trade and economic conditions in the world is something to reckon with when we speak of the gains of Asian and Pacific countries in the last decades.
With the conclusion of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Busan, we can only hope for the best for the region.
One thing that we need to see—and see clearly—is that there are two Asia- Pacific regions, two sides of the same coin: (a) the region that has all the means and the resources to push for a development agendum that addresses the needs of their own people based on the requisites of equality and justice and (b) the region that has only abject poverty as its gift to its people.
The Busan Declaration has stressed a key concept in the effort to put flesh and blood to the need for regional cooperation among the countries of Asia and the Pacific.
The key concept is human security—and this depends on implementing counter-terrorism, on securing trade, and on safe travel commitment from each of the 21 member economies.
Behind this intention is the unspeakably tragic.
There is human insecurity in the region and it is founded on the stark and ugly reality that widespread poverty has become the rule rather than the exception.
This unspeakably tragic reality is more pronounced in the rural areas than in the urban communities.
This gives us the idea that there is a lopsided distribution of the means to creating and generating wealth among the populace.
Asian Development Bank data reveals that in 2000 poverty line in the region registered a 10 percent decline from 1990 to 2000. The measure used for the poverty line is $1 or less per day.
The data would tell us the magnitude of the problem: one in six people in the region suffer from hunger because they are poor.
Or simply because they do not have easy access to the means to create wealth in order to afford them the power to purchase the food they need.
It is in South Asia that the phenomenon of abject poverty—those living $1 a day or below—is most severe.
Of the economies in the Asia-Pacific region in 2000, about 720 million people were poor. This number represents two-thirds of all the poor people in the world.
The rural-urban divide in the number of the poor tells us a glaring fact: that the countryside, where expectedly food is grown in abundance, there is more percentage of the poor in the rural than in the urban areas, says Macan-Markar.
In many countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines, the agricultural sector is most prone to hunger and want; the people in the rural areas are poorer than in the urban areas.
The hard data shocks us: the Philippines has 48% of the poor in the rural areas while 18% are in the urban areas. Compare these with Cambodia, 40 against 20; Bangladesh, 37 against 19; Indonesia, 20 against 15.
As is the case with other tragic stories of social injustice in national and international scope, the basic reasons are the obvious: the failure in land distribution, the lack of access of the poor people to credit, and the lack of access to social services.
In the case of the Philippines, land distribution has always been a perennial issue. As of today, the government has yet to make good with its promise of a successful agrarian reform program because it is anchored on the tenets of social justice.
Inequity in resource ownership has remained the big issue of all countries in all times.
The United States is no exception.
Its unmasking of the “other America” in the aftermath of Katrina tells us the real score: That being a superpower does not necessarily mean that a country has been able to address head-on its obligation to justice and fairness.
At the conclusion of the 2005 APEC in Busan, the intents and purposes relative to the creation of a just and fair society for all the 21-member economies has been re-echoed.
How these good intentions will be translated into action remains to be seen.
With 93 percent—or 280 million—of the extremely poor are India, China, and South Asia and with women and children the number one victims of this phenomenon, APEC ought to be true to its goal of creating a fair region for all its member-economies.
APEC cannot afford to dilly-dally.
The clock is ticking—and the protracted response to this regional poverty will only result in the utter lack of human security.
There is no point imagining a better place other than a place of your own.
The terrorist thrives on the willful imagination of a better place.
Terrorism’s end, thus, is crucially connected to the putting in place of a just and good life for the peoples in these economies.
Not understanding this elementary logic is unspeakably tragic.
Pub, INQ, V1N22, Nov 2005