Poverty in South Asia, the region with the world’s largest concentration of poor people, could fall dramatically within a generation if the current pace of economic growth continues, the World Bank said on Wednesday.The region’s economies have grown strongly in recent years, led by India, which has posted growth rates of up to 9 percent in the last year, compared with 5 or 6 percent on average in the last 10 to 15 years, said John A Roome, the bank’s operations director for South Asia.South Asia has been also successful in significantly reducing the number of poor people, Roome said. About 150 million people have been lifted out of poverty in the last 10 to 15 years, he said at a press conference. “These positive trends give us a lot of optimism,” Roome said. “If certain key challenges can be addressed, poverty can be significantly reduced, if not eliminated, within a generation.”Roome did not elaborate on the bank’s projections for reducing poverty, but bank said in its January report that the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, defined as those living on less than $1 a day, should fall by at least by one-half between 1990 and 2015.The challenges include sustaining and accelerating the rates of growth in the region, which covers Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.Governments must also address the rising inequality, and tackle malnutrition and infant mortality, Roome said, in Tokyo with other World Bank officials for annual consultations with the Japanese government and businesses.The bank said in the January report on eliminating poverty that South Asia also needed to improve infrastructure, citing daily power outages in Bangladesh and Nepal and impassable rural roads in the impoverished state of Bihar in India. It also called for improvement in the investment climate by reducing the red tape required to start a business.
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