Asia's Journey to Prosperity: Policy, Market and Technology over 50 Years.

AuthorMcCawley, Peter

Asia's Journey to Prosperity: Policy, Market and Technology over 50 Years. Manila: Asian Development Bank, 2020. Pp. 555.

Fifty years ago, at the end of the 1960s, most of Asia was still very poor. At the time, feeding a large and growing population and promoting agriculture were key challenges for the region. Half a century later, Asia has emerged as a centre of global dynamism. This important book, produced by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), surveys the reasons for the region's success.

The study was written with the strong support of the president of the ADB, Takehiko Nakao, who finished his seven years leading the bank in early 2020. In his Foreword, Nakao explains why he thought of taking up the subject: "I have long felt that discussions about Asian economic success were often too simplistic. Many scholars, especially from outside Asia, tend to overemphasize the role of strong state intervention and guidance. But Asia's success essentially relied on markets and the private sector as engines of growth. Economies started to grow faster when policies shifted from state intervention to market orientation, while governments continued to play some proactive roles".

The book provides a concise historical overview of the overlapping processes of development in Asia in the past half-century. It highlights the region's transformation and surveys the key factors contributing to the changes while, at the same time, highlighting large variations across countries and over time.

The presentation is easy to read and contains numerous valuable diagrams and tables. The first chapter, which serves as an executive summary, provides a very useful overview. The other fourteen chapters focus on selected topics--agriculture and rural development, technical progress, infrastructure development, trade and investment, macroeconomic stability, inter alia. Each chapter outlines the main issues and looks ahead to provide suggestions for further reform.

Starting from the observation that across most of the region there has been strong growth over the past fifty years, the two central questions addressed are: What caused the change of Asia's fortunes? And how does one explain the region's post-war economic success? These are key issues which are surely of interest to all scholars of development across the world.

The essential answers suggested by the study are that, first, the underlying conditions for growth became increasingly favourable in the post-war period...

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