United Nations: The Asia and Pacific regions are helping the struggling world economy afloat and assisting in anchoring the stability of the global economy by expanding at a blistering 7.3 percent, said the UN's Noeleen Heyzer, as she released the report by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

"It now has the historic opportunity to re-balance its economic structure in favour of itself to sustain its dynamism with strengthened connectivity and balanced regional development and make the 21st century a truly Asia-Pacific century," said Heyzer, ESCAP's executive secretary, at a press conference.

She said the economies of Asia last year grew by an even brisker 8.8 percent, and that the sustained torrid growth has been accompanied by fears of inflation -- with food prices spiraling upward particularly fast.

"The key immediate challenge is to address rising food prices that are threatening to seriously undermine the process of poverty reduction," Heyzer said.

She also alluded to a worrisome unevenness in economic opportunity in the region, where nearly a billion people still subsist on less than the equivalent of USD 1.25 a day.

Heyzer pointed to a need for employment and training programs which will allow the region's poorest consumers to purchase more goods, in the process helping to keep the Asian economic engine churning.

Heyzer said the region also is in need of more social programs and agricultural initiatives.

"While rapid growth in large economies such as China and India should benefit smaller neighbours, this cannot be taken for granted," Heyzer said.

"The rising tide of development opportunities will not lift all boats if these are separated by water locks," she said.

Agencies