Southeast Asian nations are in the process of extensive economic development, and three of those are Thailand, Philippines, and Indonesia. These three countries already achieved the “Newly Industrialized Country” status which means all three had experienced extreme economic growth over the past decade. It is seen in the bustling capitals of these countries where you can see a lot of buildings, entertainment zones, schools, hospitals, shopping centers which denote improvement with regards to the economy of the said country. However, slum areas or neighborhood living in extreme poverty is still observed in the capitals of the said countries.
Though Bangkok is regarded as one of the richest cities in Asia, it is still not exempted from having slum areas. Bangkok experienced extreme industrialization in the 90s. It is also the time when people from nearby provinces like Chiang Mai flocked into the city hoping for better opportunities. However some of them failed to do so which resulted in extreme poverty; some wont even have a money for their food for their everyday living, how much more for a place where they can live? So naturally, the poor people in Bangkok would just squat in areas and build their own shanty homes.
What I worry are those small children playing in the dangerous environment. Some of them are even playing in old railways where old trains would still pass by. It is really alarming, though Thai government is doing its part, and I can say that slum areas in Bangkok decreased dramatically, there are still slum areas that should be cleared and give those poor people free housing. It is really heart breaking to see all these dirty kids running in the busy streets of Bangkok begging for money or food. Worse, these little children, most especially the girls might opt to be a sex worker just to have money.
Another ASEAN country which is still in the process of clearing up slum areas is Indonesia. Indeed, Indonesia improved a lot economically due to its population. It is among the Top 20 countries in the world based on GDP – Purchasing Power Parity. However when we talk about the GDP Per Capita, it lags behind most ASEAN countries. Why? It is due to a lot of families still living below the poverty line. Not to mention Indonesia being the 4th Most Populated Country in the World also means there are also lots of people living in poverty.
People living in the slums would also make recycling as their job. In communities near garbage dump sites, the poorest of the poorest would try to check some items where they can still use or sell to junk shops. Doing so would give them about $3 to $6 depending on the volume that they collected during the day.
Indonesian government though is making some steps to decrease slum areas in the cities by building some residential projects where people would just be paying a small fee monthly for them to live in a comfortable housing. However, there are still a lot of slum areas in Indonesia, not only in Jakarta which is not yet clearedd.
Another Newly Industrialized Country that is still in the process of eliminating slums and poverty is the Philippines. Way back 50s and 60s, along with Japan and Sri Lanka, Philippines is a notch above any other Asian countries because of its advanced economy and good city planning similar to European cities like Paris and Barcelona. However, due to bad governance and corruption, Philippines remained stagnant and other countries like Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and even Malaysia surpassed this country. However, by 1990s, economic improvement was seen in this country however, like the other countries above, was not able to fully eliminate poverty.
Similar to other countries, poor people living in shanties in Manila are from nearby provinces, or even far provinces who tried their luck in Manila but to no avail. Most people living in slum areas in Manila are the tricycle drivers, garbage collectors, snatchers, robbers, construction boys, gasoline boys, maids and other low paid jobs. Also, the irony is, the poor families had more children, resulting in illiteracy, poor hygiene, malnutrition, even addiction to drugs, teen pregnancy and doing crimes such as snatching due to inability of their parents to provide for them. It is quite alarming that for decades, Manila has been like this, and the government is doing LITTLE effort to eliminate the problem. The government would focus more on road projects, building so many waiting sheds, basketball courts, when the city needs residential projects for the poor. Although the government is making an effort to at least build some free housing to the poor, what they would do is to build it in a province far from the original settlements of the poor. As a result those poor people would not choose to go there since their life is in Manila.
Southeast Asia as a whole is a very rich region of Asia, not just because of its economy but also because of its abundant natural resources and people. However, it might not attain the status it deserves if there are still lot of people living below poverty line and has insufficient salary to provide for their basic needs. ASEAN countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei already achieved giving a more comfortable life to their people, I hope it would be the same for Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia since I am seeing so much potential on these countries if and only they would try to lessen the poverty. Also, the group which are most affected in this poverty issue are the children, they did not choose to live on those shanties, they dont have any choice. I hope the governments of the said countries would address this issue just for the sake of the children who are the future of the aforementioned countries.