Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 is within reach, but more strategic investments are needed.
In its annual report, Survey 2019: Ambitions beyond growth, launched on 4 April 2019, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) – the UN’s regional arm – says that an additional annual investment of $1.5 trillion, equivalent to a dollar per person per day, would allow countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. It also finds that the price tag is within reach for many countries given their fiscal space and potential to leverage private investment.
Despite rapid economic growth, the study notes, too many people are left behind, without a fair chance in life, while environmental degradation has reached alarming levels, threatening the sustainability of past development gains. Hence, keeping the old paradigm of prioritizing GDP growth at all costs is neither feasible nor desirable, the report argues.
“We must raise our ambitions beyond just economic growth. The 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals provide a clear blueprint for raising our ambitions. It calls for a change in mindset and an economic philosophy which puts people and the planet first,” United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UNESCAP Executive Secretary Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana said.
UNESCAP proposes an investment package, equivalent to 5 per cent of the combined GDP of Asia-Pacific developing countries in 2018, that includes:
$669 billion to support basic human rights and develop human capacities
$590 billion to achieve clean energy for all and live in harmony with nature
$196 billion for improved access to transport, information and communications technology (ICT), and water and sanitation
“Closing this investment gap is within reach for many countries, but the gap is widest in countries which can least afford to narrow it. North-South, South-South, and triangular cooperation, as well as strengthened multilateral financing mechanisms, will be essential to accelerate the pace of sustainable development,” UNESCAP Deputy Executive Secretary Hongjoo Hahm said at the launch of the report.
“Innovative financial instruments such as green bonds and promoting new investor classes can help leverage the massive $51 trillion in assets managed by the private financial sector in the developing Asia-Pacific region. In addition, there is considerable potential to raise tax revenues in the region while improved investment efficiency” Hahm said.
The Survey finds the overall economic outlook in Asia and the Pacific to be largely stable with relatively low level of inflation. “Led by India and Bangladesh with robust economic growth rate of over 7%, South Asia has emerged as the fastest growing subregion in Asia and the Pacific,” said Nagesh Kumar, Director of UNESCAP’s South and South-West Asia Office, presenting the Survey 2019 in New Delhi to media. An increasingly uncertain global environment and rising trade tensions, together with elevated political uncertainties due to upcoming elections in some countries, limit the policy space to pursue and accelerate much-needed structural reforms. The demographic transition is going to swell the ranks of the working-age population for many years to come in South Asia, leading to a youth bulge. “This necessitates the creation of enough decent jobs for those joining the labour force in order to prevent people being trapped in low-skilled, low-income and low-value-added forms of work. The subregion needs greater trade integration and investments in energy and transport connectivity, such as the new Afghanistan-India air corridor and the BIMSTEC electricity grid. In addition, the subregion will need to ramp up investments in human capital, skills development and social infrastructure, as well as build productive capacities through sustainable industrialization to benefit fully from its potential demographic dividend,” said Kumar.
The report makes a call for people and countries to work together to ensure no one is left behind in this journey towards sustainable development.