East and Southeast Asia
Progress Continues, Challenges Grow
Kevin Chen, Peter Timmer, David Dawe, and Zimeiyi Wang
The East and Southeast Asian economies saw strong growth in consumption and investment in 2017. Economic growth in China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is expected to reach 6.8 percent and 5.1 percent for the year, respectively. Despite this favorable position, food insecurity and malnutrition remain a concern in a number of countries in the region. The 2017 Global Hunger Index reveals that six countries fall into the “serious” category, namely Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste, while obesity is increasing rapidly throughout the region (albeit from a low base). To link the region’s strong macroeconomic performance with continuing reductions in poverty and malnutrition, broad reforms are likely to be necessary to (1) improve productivity and sustainability in the agriculture and rural sectors, (2) promote and embrace regional integration, and (3) kick economic growth into a higher gear.