The potential of a ‘rising Asia’ has begun to dominate economic discourse as the world is witnessing the most profound shifts in the global economic landscape for a century. Amid the rapidly growing Asian region, South Asia has experienced striking levels of economic development within the last two decades because of greater openness to the world economy and overall market-oriented policy reforms with a focus on inclusivity. Average GDP growth in region leapt from 5.3 per cent in 1990 to 8.3 per cent in 2007/08, prior to the global downturn. While the region enjoyed the subsequent rewards, including declining levels of poverty in India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, the global financial crisis placed pressures on these economies, with growth falling to about 6.3 per cent in 2009 and brought to the fore the fundamental challenges that they still need to address. If the region as a whole, and the countries that constitute it, are to see sustained rapid growth, take full advantage of the strategic location – amidst ‘rising Asia’, and emerge as a prosperous region, these challenges need to be tackled comprehensively. In this context, this publication seeks to understand South Asia’s development and continued challenges faced by the region through four key themes – harnessing human capital potential; managing water resources, food security and climate change; addressing intra-country growth disparities; and building competitiveness of the private sector – and put forward an agenda for action towards building a stronger, more dynamic, and more inclusive region.
Towards a stronger dynamic and inclusive South Asia