It's called the Asian Century, because the cause is
the industrialisation and urbanisation of Asia's most populous
countries, but the impact is global.
What we're witnessing is the greatest period of change in
human history. Beside it, the industrial revolution seems sluggish
The government's White Paper, to be released tomorrow, shows
us just how big this phenomenon is and just how important the
impact will be.
It will be a revolution of sorts, because it is shifting the
centre of economic power from North to South and West to East. And
if we play our part Australia will no longer be "down
under", but part of the world that will be on top.
By 2025 Asia will account for almost half the world's
economic output. Four of the ten largest economies will be in Asia.
Asia will overtake the combined economic output of Europe and North
America and the combined output of China and India is likely to
exceed the Group of Seven (G7) countries well before then.
The size of the opportunity is as big as the change. The Asian
Development Bank estimates the region's infrastructure needs
alone will require US$8 trillion in investment, and the Boston
Consulting Group describes the rising middle classes of India and
China as a "$10 trillion prize".
Yet the average Australian is largely unaware that we are in the
midst of an economic and social revolution.
Many are yet to make the connection between the growth in Asia
and the consequences of an emerging middle class measured in the
billions. Already millions have been lifted out of poverty and the
appetite of the new and growing middle class for consumer goods and
services has been a major contributor to the region's economic
growth and hunger for imports and consequently our own resources
But there is much, much more to come. And the impact will be
social as well as economic. That is what makes the White Paper
important, especially for business.
The panel has explored the topic deeply, using the country's
best minds and organisations as well as hundreds of public
submissions from individuals, business, community organisations and
the arts. It has sought experience, facts, analysis, research and
ideas and plotted a course for Australia through the economic and
social transformation of the decades to come.
The White Paper is not just a report with recommendations to sit
on a shelf after a few press releases have been sent. It is policy.
And it's not just for the short term electoral cycle, it's
strategies for now as well as the years ahead.
It sets goals for the structural pillars that support our
nation, like education, innovation, infrastructure, regulatory
systems and the environment. And it sets out the policy pathways to
achieving those goals, a list of tasks for government.
But the Asian Century, its challenges and opportunities
aren't just for government. And they aren't just for Asia.
This is the world's opportunity, and especially
Australia's, due to our geographic and social proximity.
Like every opportunity, it's also a risk. Ignoring the goals
and tasks outlined in the White Paper heightens that risk. Without
domestic reforms it will be hard to access these competitive
markets. Accessing the booming Asian services market will need
better language and in-country skills. We will need all parts of
our economy to work together help Asia finance and meet its
infrastructure needs. And we will need to do this while maintaining
the high standards that make us attractive to other members if the
The biggest risk is that if we don't make the most of the
opportunity, it will overtake us. For this reason the White Paper
is required reading for every business as an input to strategic
Right now Australia is in the box seat. Unlike much of the world
today, we have a strong economy, an appetite for and facility with
technology, a mind for business, and a will to succeed. Above all,
we have courage and common sense.
We need these strengths to make the Asian Century our own.
It's a tidal wave. Let's surf it.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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