with GNI per capita at $460, is home to nearly
40 percent of the world’s poor living on less than $1 a day. Since 1990 the region has experienced rapid GDP growth, averaging
5.4 percent a year, which has helped to reduce the consumption poverty rate substantially: India has reduced poverty rate by 5-10 percent since 1990; most other countries registered a significant reduction in poverty over the period except for Pakistan where poverty has stagnated at around 33 percent – using national poverty lines. Although most countries in the region have a well developed tradition of household surveys, challenges still remain on measurement of consistent poverty trends - India’s National Sample Survey has undergone some changes in methodology in the most recent round which has created a debate on measuring poverty trends in the 1990s.
Looking beyond consumption poverty at other indicators of social progress, the region has had encouraging success in some areas: for example, mortality in children under five has reduced substantially
between 1990 and 2002 (from 130 to 95, per 1,000), especially in Bangladesh (144 to
73, per 1,000) and appreciable gains have also been achieved in total enrolments and completion rates. At the same time, challenges remain in key areas such as child malnutrition, maternal mortality, and gender balance in education and health outcomes: nearly half of all children under the age of five are malnourished and youth illiteracy is high – 23 percent for males and 39 percent for females. The resurgence of tuberculosis and the threat of HIV/AIDS are also a cause for concern.
While sustained growth would be necessary for poverty reduction, concomitant improvement in institutional service delivery mechanisms will be essential for achieving progress in all other dimensions of the MDGs.