Because recent hikes in food prices could disproportionately hurt the poor, East Asian economies need to reinstate steps they implemented during the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis to alleviate their pain, the World Bank's acting chief economist for the region said in a recent interview in Tokyo.

"Countries in East Asia need to be concerned about how they can help the poor so that they are not very badly affected by food prices," said Vikram Nehru, acting chief economist in the bank's East Asia region.

Nehru said rising inflation fueled by surges in crude oil and commodity prices "will clearly have an impact on the poor who are not farmers — those who are basically consumers of food."