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ADB urges S.E. Asian nations to adopt region-wide road safety plan.

MANILA, Nov. 22 Kyodo

The Asian Development Bank said Monday that Southeast Asian nations will suffer from huge economic losses unless they adopt a region-wide road safety plan.

The ADB made the pitch ahead of a meeting of Association of Southeast Asian Nations' transport ministers in Phnom Penh on Tuesday to consider a region-wide road safety plan drafted in workshops.

''If Southeast Asian nations don't start taking road safety seriously, there will be 385,000 road deaths and 24 million injuries in the next five years, incurring more than US$88 billion in economic losses,'' the Manila-based bank said in a statement, citing its studies.

In 2003, for instance, some 75,000 people were killed and more than 4.7 million injured in road crashes in the region. These accidents have translated into $15 billion in economic losses or 2.2 percent of the region's total gross domestic product, the ADB said.

''Such huge recurring losses are not sustainable and action has to be taken to implement a regional strategy and action plan to improve road safety in the region,'' said Charles Melhuish, the ADB's leading transport sector specialist.

The percentage of GDP lost annually through road accidents ranges from 0.5 percent in Singapore to 3.21 percent in Cambodia, averaging out at 2.23 percent for the region, the ADB said. Indonesia loses the most in money terms, amounting to $6.03 billion per year (2.91 percent of GDP), followed by Thailand at $3 billion (2.1 percent of GDP), it said.

The five-year ASEAN Regional Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan, part of the ADB-ASEAN Regional Road Safety Program, is due for consideration by ASEAN transport ministers at the meeting in Cambodia.

The ASEAN members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The plan was developed after a regional workshop at the ADB headquarters in Manila and modeled on successful road safety action plans in other countries.

''Experience shows that road safety needs to be tackled in a comprehensive and coordinated manner and that different types of intervention are effective at different stages of a country's development,'' Melhuish said.

The regional plan suggests that the adoption of individual country action plans could lead to a reduction of 42,000 in deaths and 2.9 million injuries in ASEAN member nations over the next five years and $10.6 billion less in economic losses.

''Although it may not be possible to bring about an immediate drastic reduction in the road death and injury toll, it should be possible to slow down the growth, stabilize it, and gradually turn the region's trends into a downward direction,'' Melhuish said.

Road crashes are a growing problem worldwide, resulting in around 1 million deaths and more than 23 million injuries annually, the draft strategy says. Around 85 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries.

As of the year 2000, the Asia-Pacific region has accounted for 44 percent of global road deaths, although it has only about 14 percent of the world's motor vehicles.

''If each of those injured or killed (in Southeast Asia in 2003) has, say, five family members or dependents reliant upon his or her earnings, there could be 25 million persons in the region being directly affected or suffering economic hardship as a result of road crashes,'' Melhuish said.

Economic development in ASEAN countries has spurred a rapid growth in motorization and led to a significant worsening of road safety throughout the region.

But official records of accidents may not reflect the real number of people killed or injured, possibly due to erratic reporting, the ADB said.

The total number of deaths caused by road accidents and recorded by police in ASEAN countries in 2003 was 43,259 and the number of injuries stood at 187,343, compared with ADB estimates of 75,193 and 4,745,578, respectively, the ADB said.

The biggest discrepancies occurred in Indonesia and the Philippines. Deaths and injuries reported by the police in Indonesia in 2003 totaled 8,761 and 13,941 respectively, compared with ADB estimates of 30,464 and 2.55 million. In the Philippines, police reports suggested only 995 deaths and 6,790 injuries in 2003, compared with ADB estimates of 9,000 and 493,970.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Nov 24, 2004
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