Webinar on “Asia’s Development Over 50 Years”

This webinar launches a new book by the Asian Development Bank entitled Asia’s Journey to Prosperity: Policy, Market and Technology over 50 Years. The webinar examines critical elements behind the success of Asia and the Pacific’s economic development.


Thursday, 30 July 2020 – ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute organised a webinar on “Asia’s Development Over 50 Years”. The webinar was delivered by Dr Yasuyuki Sawada, Chief Economist of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The two discussants in the webinar were Hal Hill, a H.W. Arndt Professor Emeritus of the Southeast Asian Economies at the Crawford School, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University (ANU), and Jenny Corbett, Emeritus Professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy and the inaugural Rio Tinto Fellow for the Foundation for Australia-Japan Studies, based at the University of Tokyo.

Dr Yasuyuki Sawada shared from selected chapters of the book. The two discussants in the webinar were Prof Hal Hill and Prof Jenny Corbett. Dr Jayant Menon moderated the webinar. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dr Yasuyuki Sawada began his presentation by explaining Asia’s economic success. He attributed this to a few factors such as: relying on proactive state support, promoting structural transformation, investing in productive capacity, building human capital, accelerating technological progress, opening trade and investment, maintaining macroeconomic stability, promoting social inclusiveness and promotion of regional cooperation and integration.

In the last half century, Asian development policy has shifted from state-led industrialization to market-oriented growth. High-growth Asian economies made large investments in human and physical capital, financed largely by domestic savings and supported by infrastructure investments. This made Asia a centre of global manufacturing production and value chains. Hence, via technological progress and structural transformation was achieved, which led to a faster pace of growth in Asia. Additionally, rapid economic growth and targeted policies led to rapid poverty reduction in the region.

Dr Yasuyuki Sawada also commented on issues such as whether Asian development is unique, the role of industrial policy before and after Asian Financial Crisis, whether industrialisation can be bypassed, and the importance of institutions in facilitating economic growth. He then pointed out challenges ahead for Asia’s continued economic success. These include promoting innovation-based growth, making growth more inclusive, narrowing gender gaps, improving education quality, achieving universal health coverage, reducing large infrastructure gaps, protecting the environment, tackling climate change, responding to demographic change and ushering in a post COVID-19 new normal.

The webinar concluded with Dr Yasuyuki Sawada, Hal Hill and Jenny Corbett engaging in a question and answer session. A few of the questions asked surrounded the book ADB had launched, entitled Asia’s Journey to Prosperity: Policy, Market and Technology over 50 Years. These included variations in inequality amongst Asian counties, the role of cities in development, and the impact of COVID-19. Some other questions enquired on the impact of the China-US decoupling on Asia’s economic prospects and supply chains, as well as ADB’s future role in improving competitiveness in the region in light of the recent wave of nationalism and protectionism.

About 60 participants attended the webinar. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)