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Regional integration is key to Asia’s success

Posted on: July 31, 2009

Regional integration is key to Asia’s success

Disparities still exists between rich and poor
By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:01:00 07/30/2009

Filed Under: Economy and Business and Finance

MANILA, Philippines— Asian countries need to integrate their economies in order to compete better with the rest of the world, a top executive of the Asian Development Bank said.

“For more sustainable, inclusive and rapid growth, Asia needs to become more integrated as a region while integrating into the global economy. Integration is a win-win situation,” said Rajat Nag, managing director general, Asian Development Bank.

“Asia’s output today roughly equals that of Europe or North America, and may become 50 percent larger by 2020, in terms of purchasing power parity owing to its populous countries,” added Nag, speaking at a forum on leadership organized by software firm SAP.

But Nag said this will only happen when Asia can bridge the “glaring disparities” between prosperous cities and “desperate slums” detrimental to the region’s long-term economic growth
and social stability.

He noted the progress Asia has achieved in the three decades as a trading partner, exporting two-thirds of products to the Americas and Europe.

“Today, Asia should export within itself and redistribute growth to its countries by leveraging access to opportunities among people,” said Nag.

Citing statistics, he said around 900 million people in Asia are living under the $1.25 (or roughly P75) a day poverty line, with 700 million without access to improved drinking water, 1.9 billion without access to improved sanitation.

Anothr glaring statistic is access to formal education – 100 million children are not enrolled in primary schools and 107 million children who are under the age of five are underweight.

When everyone is given access to basic services such as education, citizens are equipped with skills to seek better job opportunities and thus, participate in the economy and benefit from the process of
growth, Nag explained.

To ensure access to basic services such as basic utilities, education and health care, ADB suggests Asia needs to invest about $750 billion each year from 2010 to 2020 in national and regional infrastructure, according to Nag.

He added Asia must adopt new patterns of urban development, energy production and consumption, land use and waste management to adopt a “more environmentally sustainable course” of growth.

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