SDGs for less than a dollar per person per day

5 Apr 2019

Less than a dollar per person per day. That is all it will cost developing countries in Asia and the Pacific to realize their ambitions for an inclusive and sustainable future, according to a study by ESCAP.

This may seem a small price to pay for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the region. It is, however, sizeable when considering the average per capita income in countries which need to do the most to reduce wide social and environmental deficits that stand in the way of the region achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The comprehensive costing exercise published in the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2019 launched yesterday, finds that developing Asia-Pacific countries need to invest annually, an additional $1.5 trillion – about 5 per cent of their total 2018 GDP – to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

Investing just 92 cents per person per day can enable countries to end extreme poverty and malnutrition, provide basic health care, a quality basic education, clean energy and an enabling infrastructure for all while strengthening resilience to climate risks and protecting nature.

This includes an investment of 43 cents per person per day in targeted income transfers, social protection, nutritional interventions, agricultural and rural development, a quality education for every child and youth, and basic health care for all.

Another 37 cents per person per day can help protect natural wealth and secure our planet’s future by making economic growth less resource-intensive and more environment-friendly. This includes an important shift to clean energy for all.

And finally, an additional investment equal to 12 cents per person per day will equip the region with key infrastructure needed for human and material well-being – climate-resilient roads and railways, fixed and mobile broadband, and water and sanitation services for all.

These costs will, however, not be shared evenly as some countries need to invest much more. Indeed, South Asia and Asia-Pacific least developed countries need to invest at least more than twice as much as the regional average – between 2 and 3 dollars per person per day. The SDGs will become affordable for all countries in the region with strong development partnerships and regional cooperation.

Besides the usual mix of public and private financing, let us not forget that the private financial sector in the developing Asia-Pacific region manages some $51 trillion in assets. There is certainly room for better allocation of capital, so that our investments reflect our priorities as a society, going beyond near-term profit maximization to long-term social returns.

The price of the ticket for the journey towards the SDGs is affordable for all if we work together and change our mindset towards putting people and the planet first.