Asia’s Unfinished Agenda

Asia’s Unfinished Agenda

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Arrived in Delhi and was struck by two things. The gleaming Indira Gandhi International Airport with its world class facilities and Greater Noida, the fast growing urban and industrial center about an hour’s drive by expressway from Delhi where our Annual Meeting is being held. Both are impressive signs of the country’s rapid modernization.  

Written by Ann Quon, Head of External Relations

Arrived in Delhi and was struck by two things. The gleaming Indira Gandhi International Airport with its world class facilities and Greater Noida, the fast growing urban and industrial center about an hour’s drive by expressway from Delhi where our Annual Meeting is being held. Both are impressive signs of the country’s rapid modernization.  

Many countries in the region have made considerable economic and social progress in the past few decades. But we are too aware of the vast unfinished business we face in a region where two thirds of the world’s poor still live – a third of them here in India.   About 1.9 billion people live without basic sanitation, while 83 million children under five suffer from malnutrition. Equally disturbing is the widening gap between the rich and poor that has become a gaping chasm in many countries. 

A short walk through the streets of Delhi provides not only a stark reminder of the challenges we face but also the entrepreneurial spirit of folk living hard scrabble lives. Last night on the way to Noida, even at midnight, we passed vendors selling ice cream from the carts – capitalizing on the 40 degree plus summer heat. Giving the poor access to basic services and opportunities to improve their lives is the essence of our mandate and the theme of this year’s meeting theme ‘Development through Empowerment.’

Over the next few days, we will be exploring some important questions.  How can the region finance and roll out the vast infrastructure requirements needed to improve the quality of life of the poor? How can the delivery of public services like health and education be improved and targeted more effectively to reach the most vulnerable? What is needed to provide the jobs and skills which will allow more of the region’s citizens to earn a decent living and move out of the informal economy?  How can Asia and the Pacific step up regional links and cooperation which will help drive growth and open up more opportunities for all? 

We also need to look beyond “Factory Asia” as low cost manufacturing-led economies like the People’s Republic of China face a new ‘normal’ of sharply reduced demand from the US and Europe.  How these economies can transition to a new growth paradigm driven by higher value added production, domestic demand, and increased knowledge is one of the most pressing issues facing the region.

Increasingly grim headlines about pollution, climate change, and urban congestion in Asia and the Pacific are also a stark reminder about the urgent need to make growth environmentally sustainable. These issues will also be explored.  

With more than 4000 participants ranging from the public and private sectors, civil society, academia, development organizations and the media gathering in Noida, I look forward to hearing robust debate and conversations about these critical issues over the next few days.