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Reuters-INTERVIEW-Asia must keep in

Subject: Reuters-INTERVIEW-Asia must keep investing in young-UNICEF

INTERVIEW-Asia must keep investing in young-UNICEF
08:11 a.m. Nov 12, 1998 Eastern

By David Brunnstrom

BANGKOK, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Carol Bellamy, a former Wall Street investment
banker who now heads the U.N. Children's Fund, said on Thursday it was
essential for countries in Asia to continue to invest in their children,
despite the regional financial crisis.

Bellamy, in Bangkok for a ministerial meeting on children and development,
told Reuters that education was as much a key to stability as investments in
the economy or defence.

``We're realistic. We realise there will be some reductions in spending, but
the experience out of Latin America and Africa in the 80s, where they
confronted financial crisis, was that there was a huge impact on the social
sector,'' she said.

``Our argument is that there really has to be a balanced approach to this
and an
understanding that investment in education and investment in quality primary
education is as much a key to stability and security as some of the
economnic investments and some of the military investments.''

Bellamy said that over the past decade, the East Asian region had probably
made greater advances in education and other child rights than any other
part of the world.

``There are disparities and a number of the countries, like Myanmar and
Laos, are lagging behind, but the concern is what the impact will be of the
economic crisis, and will it erode those gains,'' she said.

Some initial signs were already being seen in Indonesia, where school
dropout rates had been increasing, largely because of the economic crisis.

Bellamy said more children than ever were now going to school, but it was
still a concern that some 130 million worldwide who ought to be in school
were not and two-thirds of them were girls.

In certain cases, it would be more appropriate to make cuts in areas like
defence, she said.

``The largest (cuts) should not be taken in the social sector. If there are
going to be adjustments there shouldn't be any parts of the budget that are
off limits.

Bellamy said said there was always great consternation when financial crises

``Fine I recognise that -- I spent half my life as a Wall Street lawyer and
investment banker. We would just urge there be an equal amount of
consternation about the impact on people, especially women and children who
bear the greatest burden.''

It was essential to make sure health and education systems continued to
function and maintaining these would pay off in the long run.

``When you're a banker you want a good return on your investment and health
and education really produce an extraordinary return,'' she said.