Gap between rich and poor widening: IMF

Posted at 10/18/11 8:59 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) unveiled its economic outlook for Asia-Pacific region in Manila on Monday, lowering its growth projection for Asia to 6.3%. As for the Philippines, the IMF said it will be affected by the slowdown in exports but its economy will remain resilient.

Asked about the protests against corporate greed in the Western world, IMF director for Asia and the Pacific Anoop Singh said the impact of a global slowdown and the prospect of a global recession may cause protests to resonate in Asia.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is not just spreading in the US but across the globe. Over the weekend, hundreds gathered in Times Square in New York, saying it is unjust for just one percent of the population to control the wealth while the rest are living in poverty. The protests led to the arrest of more than 70 people.

Britons echoed the same sentiment and criticized the global financial system.  In Italy, vehicles were razed and major roads closed by the rallies.

In Germany, protests turned violent when police tried to disperse the demonstrators. Rallies have already sprung in Hong Kong.

The IMF said economic growth in Asia should be more inclusive.

Singh said even with robust growth, the disparity between the rich and the poor in Asia continues to widen, a challenge that the Philippines is also facing.

"Asian leaders recognize that in many countries in Asia too, inequalities have grown over the last decade, more than other regions," Singh said.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Monday expressed doubt Filipinos will copy the "Occupy Wall Street" protests.

"It's possible that other groups will imitate the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement... This cannot be compared with our administration. We have always fought for inclusive growth," Lacierda said.

Singh urged Asian nations to increase spending on infrastructure, health and education to benefit the poor.

The IMF director also lauded the Aquino administration's conditional cash transfer program. "Because it is targeted, it gets the poor. Because it is well-targeted, it is not very expensive," he said.

Still, the IMF warns another global recession similar to that in 2008 may recur due to the eurozone debt crisis and America's economic woes.

Should this happen, the IMF said,  there won't be escaping the economic downturn, not even in Asia, the Philippines included.