Asia Foundation’s William Cole Speaks on AMICs at Asian Development Bank

Manila, July 25, 2017 — The Asia Foundation’s Senior Advisor for Program Strategy Dr. William Cole was a featured speaker at the Asian Development Bank’s Insight Thursday series earlier this month. Insight Thursday is a twice-monthly series at ADB’s headquarters in Manila where thought leaders and innovators are invited to speak on important emerging issues. Dr. Cole’s presentation focused on growth and stability challenges facing Asian countries as they experience economic slowdowns in later stages of development, which the Foundation calls Advanced Middle-Income Countries (AMICs).

While Asia has made great progress in reducing poverty, more than 550 million Asians continue to survive on less than $1.25 per day; and most of the world’s poor are in middle-income countries, not in poor countries. As labor costs rise in AMICs, countries must shift to upgrading their economies to avoid the “middle-income trap” through highly productive, technology-intensive, and innovation-driven industries in order to remain globally competitive.

Asia Foundation’s William Cole speaks on Asia’s advanced middle-income countries at the Asian Development Bank’s Insight Thursday series in July. Photo: ADB

The presentation underscored the political dimensions and management of reform, and pointed to several global developments that can greatly complicate AMIC transitions in the future. Research conducted over the past decade has sharpened understanding of the policy and institutional reforms required to sustain growth at the AMIC level. However, less attention has been given to the ways in which political dynamics and resistance to change by powerful interests in AMICs often delay or derails progress on upgrading reforms.

Dr. Cole concluded his remarks with several suggestions on ways in which ADB and other multilateral organizations can improve the success rate of lending and other assistance to AMICs. For example, lending programs can be explicitly designed to build and sustain national political consensus on essential economic upgrading agendas in key areas like higher education or procurement reform.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our programs address critical issues affecting Asia in the 21st century—governance and law, economic development, women’s empowerment, environment, and regional cooperation.

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