Between 1960 and 2018, developing Asia’s per capita GDP grew 15-fold (in constant 2010 United States dollars), from $330 to $4,903, boosting incomes and lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty. Its share of global gross domestic product (GDP) also rose from 4% in 1960 to 24% in 2018.
This rapid economic growth and structural transformation significantly improved the region’s broad development indicators. For example, the rate of extreme poverty fell from 68.1% in 1981 to 6.9% in 2015. The average life expectancy at birth increased from 45.0 years in 1960 to 71.8 years in 2018. The infant mortality rate fell from 137.8 to 26.2 deaths per 1,000 live births during the period and mean years of schooling for those aged 20–24 increased from 3.5 in 1960 to 8.9 in 2010.
These are the main message in a recently published book by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) titled “Asia’s Journey to Prosperity: Policy, Market, and Technology Over 50 Years” presented by no other than Prof. Yasuyuki Sawada, Chief Economist and Director-General for Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department, ADB, during the Book Launch seminar hosted by SDGs Center UNPAD at Grha Sanusi, Bandung, on 10 February 2020.
This book argues that Asia’s economic success owes much to creating better policies and institutions. These policies and institutions helped develop and nurture market economies and a vibrant private sector, which, in turn, led to sustained technological adoption and innovation. This process benefited from governments’ pragmatism in making policy choices, including the practice of testing or piloting major policy changes before full-scale implementation, ability to learn lessons from its own and others’ achievements and mistakes, and decisiveness in introducing (sometimes drastic) reforms when needed. In many countries, a clear vision for the future shared across a wide spectrum of society—often promoted by forward-looking leaders—made a difference, especially when backed by a competent bureaucracy and strong institutions.
The Book launch seminar was opened by Dr. Ahmad Komarulzaman, Deputy Director of SDGs Center UNPAD. Meanwhile, Dr. Syurkani Ishak Hakim, Executive Director of ADB, in his remark, emphasized the importance of collaboration between Indonesian universities and ADB. Among others, ADB can benefit from the good quality of alumni of reputable Indonesian universities.
Other panelists in the book launch seminar include Dr. Edimon Ginting, Deputy Director General Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department, Prof. Arief Anshory Yusuf of SDGs Center UNPAD, and Dr. Titik Anas of Faculty of Economics and Business, UNPAD and also Special Adviser to Indonesian Minister of Finance. The panel discussion was chaired by Mr. Said Zaidansyah, Deputy Country Director of ADB Indonesia.
The seminar concludes that despite this remarkable progress in the last 50 years, enormous and unprecedented challenges remain in the future. These include rising inequality, new kind of technical progress with also implication on inequality, as well as the future of structural transformation.