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Asia Development Bank: Billions in Region Could be Affluent by 2050

  • Daniel Schearf

A local commercial bank staffer receives bricks of dong bank notes from a customer in Hanoi, Vietnam (file)

A local commercial bank staffer receives bricks of dong bank notes from a customer in Hanoi, Vietnam (file)

The Asian Development Bank says as many as three billion more people in Asia could be well off by the middle of the century if growth rates continue and a host of challenges are met.

The Asian Development Bank says with global economic growth shifting to Asia, this could become an "Asian Century”"

The non-profit development lender says if Asia’s fast growth rates continue and certain daunting challenges are met, the region by 2050 could account for half of all global production, trade and investment.

In a draft report presented Wednesday at the ADB's annual meeting in Hanoi, the bank said under this scenario Asia’s gross domestic product would soar to $148 trillion, compared with just $16 trillion today.

And, three billion more Asians would enjoy a prosperous standard of living.

But that outcome is not assured. Rajat Nag, managing director general for the ADB, says economic growth must be inclusive or it could be compromised. He says corruption and a lack of enterprise also threaten Asia’s potential.

"If Asia could address these, what we call the three 'I’s,' inequities, institutional deficiencies, and innovation, then Asia might be able to avoid the middle income trap and move onto this higher trajectory of the Asian Century," he said.

The ADB also lays out a "middle income trap" scenario under which Asia’s fastest growing economies - China, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam - slow down over the next several years and income levels stagnate.

Under this scenario, Asia’s GDP would reach only 32 percent of global production and per capita by 2050 - much less than under the best case scenario.

Nag says even if the Asian century becomes a reality, the region will still lag behind the industrialized Western nations.

"Asia has some major challenges. If those challenges are faced squarely now, Asia can be more prosperous," he said. "But, even then, Asia would be, as I said, at 38, [$38,000], $39,000 per capita in 2050 in purchasing power parity terms, still be just slightly over the global average but certainly far short of the American or the European average."

The ADB says that at present, half of all Asians live without basic sanitation and 900 million of them lack access to electricity.

The report on Asian growth will be discussed at the ADB's annual meeting this week. Finance officials from 61 governments, including donor countries such as the United States and Australia, and developing nations throughout Asia, are at the conference.

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