Mr. Rajat M. Nag, Managing Director General of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) gave a keynote speech entitled ‘Asia’s future: challenges and opportunities’ to the Brussels-based European Institute for Asian Studies (EIAS) on January 31, 2013. The event was chaired by Mr. David Fouquet, Senior Associate of the EIAS.
The purpose of the event was to discuss the findings of the 2011 report ‘Asia 2050: Realizing the Asian Century’. In his speech, Mr. Nag, who was a key contributor to the report, elaborated on two potential scenarios of where Asia might find itself in 2050. The first is the ‘Asian Century’ scenario under which by the middle of the century, Asia would account for over half of the global GDP. While the odds are slightly in favour of the Asian Century scenario, he cautioned against excessive optimism, highlighting that while this scenario was plausible, it was not preordained. The second is the middle income trap scenario, under which, by 2050, Asia would only account for 32% of global GDP. He gave an extensive overview of the social, economic and political challenges facing Asia in the coming decades as well as policy choices that need to be taken by Asian countries at the national, regional and global level for Asia’s growth to be sustainable and inclusive in the long term. He pointed to the prevailing income and gender inequalities, lack of services to support rapidly growing urban populations and lack of good governance as the issues that will need to be most urgently addressed. He also stressed the need for greater regional cooperation, an area where so far only Southeast Asia has achieved genuine success, and finished by emphasizing the importance for the EU to remain strongly engaged in Asia.