chapter  1
28 Pages

Introduction: Exclusions, Defi cits and Trajectories

BySarah Cook, Naila Kabeer

Asia is once more a development success story. Publications and the media draw our attention to the rapid, at times spectacular, rates of growth occurring in many countries in East, South East and increasingly South Asia.1 This situation is in marked contrast to the one which gave rise to the research programme on which this book is based. The regional policy agenda of the late 1990s was dominated by a fi nancial meltdown across East and South East Asia and, in its wake, the inability of states, communities or families to protect the basic livelihoods of their citizens or members. The Asian crisis, starting with the collapse of the real estate sector in Thailand in the spring of 1997, and spreading over the subsequent months to affect most economies in north and South East Asia, followed an extended period of rapid economic growth. Rising prosperity had created a certain complacency on the part of policy makers in the region:

that continued growth would deliver sustained reductions in poverty, and that increasing personal incomes would allow individuals to insure themselves against livelihood shocks. Reinforced by the dominant neo-liberal or ‘Washington Consensus’ agendas which saw little role for the state in welfare provisions, few social protection mechanisms were put in place during the growth years. When the crisis hit, a mere 10 per cent of Asia’s population were estimated to be covered by formal social security or safety net measures (Cook et al. 2003: 14).