[Excerpt] Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific 2010 (Key Indicators 2010), the 41st edition of this series, is a statistical data book presenting economic, financial, social, and environmental indicators for the 48 regional members of the Asian Development Bank. It presents a special chapter in Part I—this year on the role of Asia’s middle class in global and domestic economies—followed by statistical tables with short, non- technical commentaries on economic, financial, social, and environmental developments. In Part II, the first set of statistical tables and commentaries looks at the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and progress in the region toward achieving key targets. In Part III, the second set is grouped into seven themes providing a broader picture of economic, financial, social, and environmental developments.
The special chapter discusses original evidence-based research and studies of select countries to highlight and understand the importance of Asia’s emerging middle class. It contends that its expansion is crucial to greater, more efficient, and inclusive poverty reduction in the region. Yet as the middle class expands it also creates many new challenges. The chapter stresses that much of the middle class exists only just above poverty levels, leaving it highly vulnerable to falling back. Additionally, as incomes rise and lifestyles change, it will create new environmental and health challenges. Policies are needed that both bolster the new status of the middle class and deal with the adverse consequences.
This issue of Key Indicators, for many variables, also contains statistics detailing the impact of the global economic crisis on Asia’s economies, starting in the second half of 2008 and through 2009 as economies around the world contracted. Comparisons of these data with the pre-crisis years up to 2007 show how the crisis affected economic growth, international trade, inflation, government revenue and fiscal balance, international tourism, and other key variables. The crisis seems not to have had as serious an impact on Asia and the Pacific as had been feared in 2008. Most of the larger economies proved resilient, and governments met shrinking domestic demand with extraordinary spending measures, allowing deficits to rise to boost final demand. The crisis did nonetheless interrupt the strong growth trends seen before 2007. Its cost is to be measured in the gains forgone in the slowdown.
The statistics for monitoring progress toward the MDGs, which stop at 2008 for most variables, do not yet capture the impact of the global crisis. In Part II, the assessments of country progress toward the MDGs are made strictly on the basis of the trends of indicators observed in the past. Future issues of Key Indicators may change these assessments as post-crisis data become available.