‘Developing Asia must boost productivity’
Manila, Philippines: Developing Asia must boost productivity if it is
to continue to enjoy strong economic growth, reduce poverty and
inequality and avoid getting mired in the middle-income trap, delegates
heard at an Asian Regional Cooperation and Integration conference last
“It is critical that the region tackles the structural issues
underlying slowing productivity,” said Head of the Asian Development
Bank’s (ADB) Office of Regional Economic Cooperation, Iwan J. Azis.
“Deeper regional cooperation and integration can help to do that through
better infrastructure, energy, trade, and finance and labour mobility,”
The conference held at the ADB on Monday and Tuesday gathered
government officials, private sector leaders, academics and other
experts from around the region to discuss the productivity challenge and
the way forward for regional cooperation.
Developing Asia has seen strong growth in recent decades on the back
of high investment and in most countries, a young and eager workforce
which shifted from rural work to higher-paying manufacturing jobs in the
Economic liberalisation coupled with greater cross-border integration
in trade and finance also helped as supply chains spread across the
region. The structural change in the region has been more
growth-enhancing than in other parts of the world.
However, in recent years, external conditions such as slower global
growth, inadequate infrastructure, and other supply-side constraints
have slowed productivity growth in many Asian countries. With the
external environment likely to be less benign in coming years, a key
challenge for Asia is to reverse that trend and sustain high
Delegates said that the contribution by greater regional cooperation
to higher productivity depends on the country concerned. Landlocked,
fragile, and conflict-affected States must improve their fundamentals
such as human resources and basic infrastructure.
But greater use of information and communication technologies can
draw financing from multiple sources and share information that allows
development of niche markets.
For middle and higher-income countries, higher-quality infrastructure
and skills can help make trade more efficient and ensure economies move
up the value chain.
IT-related technologies and new ways of managing could also boost
productivity. For Asia’s high-income countries, however, new high
productivity activities may be necessary to sustain their high level of
productivity, they said.