New Silk Road key to Asian prosperity

By Erlan Idrissov
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, May 13, 2014
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When the Asian Development Bank was set up nearly half a century ago to promote economic development across the continent, not even the greatest optimists could have dreamt of the scale of change and rate of progress we have seen.

After all, in 1966, Vietnam was the scene of a terrible conflict. China was firmly outside the global economy. The Soviet Union and the West were still locked in the Cold War. Japan was the only major economic power in the region. Hundreds of millions of people were seemingly trapped in poverty.

As finance ministers, central bank governors, and industry leaders gather in Astana, Kazakhstan, for the ADB’s annual meeting (Editor’s note: the meeting was held earlier this month), the picture could hardly be more positive. It is peace, prosperity and potential which are the hallmarks of Asia in the 21st century.

China, the world’s second biggest economy, is driving global growth. India, Indonesia and South Korea have joined China and Japan in the G20 group of largest economies. Asia now produces up to 30 percent of the world GDP and its share is expected to reach 50 percent by 2050.

Kazakhstan, which did not exist as an independent country even a generation ago let alone when the ADB was established, is an example of the speed of change. Born out of the break-up of the Soviet Union, it is already among the 50th biggest global economies.

But despite this remarkable progress and predictions that this will be the “Asian Century,” the continent still faces many challenges. Not all countries, nor all parts of society, have shared in the fast pace of development. Asia remains home to two thirds of the world’s poor.

We are also seeing the rapid pace of development putting increasing pressure on societies and resources. Kazakhstan itself is working hard to rebalance its economy away from its natural resource wealth to build a successful future.

Delivering this goal for Kazakhstan and Asia as a whole depends on improved regional economic integration. This can’t be achieved without tackling the barriers that prevent the flow of trade across our continent and to the wider world. It is why the decision by the ADB to focus this year’s annual meeting on improving physical links — transport and infrastructure — is so important.

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