Ms. Anchalee Ooraikul, Secretary-General, Office of Agricultural Economics, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Thailand,
Mr. Thomas Elhaut, Director, Asia and the Pacific Division, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD),
Ladies and gentlemen,
A pleasant good morning to all of you.
First of all, allow me to convey warm greetings and welcome to you all in Thailand and to this Planning Workshop on Pro-Poor Policy Analysis and Dialogue at the Country Level in Asia and the Pacific on behalf of my FAO colleagues and myself. We are greatly honored and privileged to have you all here at the regional office.
As you all are aware, Asia and the Pacific region has made great progress in reducing hunger and poverty in the last three decades. There has been manifold increase in per capita income as well as food production. The major socio-economic indicators have improved tremendously. By the end of the last century, a few Asian countries achieved the status of newly industrialized countries; a number of Southeast Asian nations achieved sustained growth over several decades; and in the twenty-first century, the whole world is looking at Asia with great expectations of booming economic growth in China and India. Economic progress in these two countries where one third of the humanity lives hold great promise for the region as a whole and the world community at large.
However, let us not forget that the fruits of development have not been shared equally across countries and within the countries of the region. As has been noted in the concept paper of this workshop, despite dramatic economic transformation of the region in the last three decades, a significant portion of the Asian population remains poor. In 2002, almost 690 million people were estimated to be extremely poor (those living on less than $1 a day), and 1.9 billion Asians were poor (at a more “generous” $2 a day measure). And in our recent reckoning 519 million suffer from under-nutrition. Poverty and food insecurity have emerged as one of the greatest development challenge for the region. Therefore, the future economic progress in Asia must go hand in hand with rapid eradication of poverty and hunger. The future decades must be decades of shared growth and prosperity. And this will not be possible unless the quest for growth takes a pro-poor stance.
I need not repeat the clich? that poverty and hunger are closely inter-related. This message was loudly and clearly conveyed by world leaders in adopting the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger as the first and foremost Millennium Development Goal. This goal significantly groups together poverty and hunger for the simple reason that they are inseparably related and must be addressed together.
Given this fact, it gives me great satisfaction to note that IFAD and FAO are joining hands in carrying out their respective mandates of poverty and hunger eradication in the region through promotion of pro-poor agricultural policies and dialogue at the country level. Policy is at the core of the success of any development strategy. FAO’s country policy work has amply demonstrated how good policies expanding the opportunity sets of the resource poor farmers turned around poor economies into prosperous ones and at the same time how bad policies and policy failures worked the other way round.
We have also learned that the “one size fits all” approach does not work and good intentions alone do not deliver goods. Policies must be crafted with good understanding not only of the resource endowments and potentials of the farmers but also their priorities, aspirations and motivations. What we think is good for them may not be what they really want. Therefore, conventional wisdom, economic theory and experiences from elsewhere must be tempered with adequate policy dialogue with the stakeholders. This underscores the need to have a people-centered holistic approach of country-specific identification, analysis and formulation of policies with full stakeholder of participation. And this process must also involve a strong element of capacity building so that the countries concerned can do these tasks themselves without, or with less, external support in the future.
I understand the task before this workshop is to deliberate on how IFAD and FAO can promote pro-poor agricultural policies in developing countries of the region and to provide practical inputs to the formulation of a project for this purpose. I also understand that the original concept paper has been elaborated into a draft proposal for technical assistance grant, an outline of which will be presented to you for your inputs in preparing a final version which will be presented for funding support from IFAD.
The task before you is clear and concrete and I have no doubt that we will receive from you information on your respective country priorities with respect to policy issues and your wise advise on the approach and design of the project. As a co-organizer of this workshop I thank you all for kindly accepting our invitation to contribute to this workshop and look forward to greatly benefiting from your valued inputs and advice. I welcome you once again.
I take this opportunity to extend my sincere gratitude to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Thailand, for kindly accepting IFAD and FAO’s request to collaborate with us in organizing this workshop. Thailand has been a great host to this regional office and we have always received positive consideration and cooperation from the Ministry in carrying out our activities. More over, the government of Thailand has initiated a series of pro-poor policies from which we will have much to learn. I thank you Madam Secretary-General for taking time away from your busy schedule to deliver opening remarks.
Finally, I welcome Mr. Elhaut and his colleagues from IFAD and thank them for their interest to collaborate with FAO in carrying out our common mandates in this region. I am extremely delighted to recall that the idea of this collaboration is a fruit of the substantive discussion held between IFAD and FAO when Mr. Elhaut visited us at RAP last October. As we say in Chinese “every journey starts in the first step”. We have taken that first step together, and I am confident that we will reach our destination of serving the poor of this region with full collaboration of our member countries. I assure you my and my colleagues’ full cooperation with you and your institution in this regard.
I wish you all a successful workshop and a pleasant stay in Bangkok.