Beneath the gloss of Asia’s newfound prosperity lies an unsettling reality. Rising inequality has denied the benefits of Asia’s economic growth to many millions of its citizens. The problem is worsening as the region’s rich get richer much faster than the poor, who miss out on the income, education, and health care they need to lead fulfilling lives.
In this issue’s Special Report, Development Asia examines Asia’s widening inequality from many different perspectives. We look at the role of globalization in producing inequality, and consider the disputed relationship between inequality and economic growth.
Asia isn’t the only region suffering from a wealth gap, but unlike others it has failed so far to narrow the divide. Most of its large economies have shown rising income inequality since the 1990s, and rural poverty is outpacing urban poverty across much of the continent. If left unchecked, the consequences of this trend could be dire.
Palaniappan Chidambaram, the Government of India Finance Minister, provides unique insights into India’s experience with inequality in a fascinating question-and-answer session. In a forthright opinion piece, former World Bank chief economist Justin Yifu Lin delivers his prescription for tackling inequality in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
We discuss how some countries have managed to sidestep the inequality trap, and reveal how others like Cambodia have made progress in curbing the symptoms of inequality— in this case child mortality.
Rounding out our cover package is a central question: What can be done about inequality? While some characterize inequality as a phase on the path to prosperity, an emerging consensus suggests otherwise and highlights the importance of inclusive, jobs-rich growth.
In our Features section, we venture into Asia’s sprawling slums for a closeup look at how hope—and economies— can take root amid the squalor. Many slums are now vital hubs in the broader economy of their cities, a positive step but one that complicates plans for slum redevelopment.
Closing this issue is Black & White, a new section that provides a space for some of Asia’s leading photographers to display their work on a specific development project or theme. In this issue, Filipino photographer Veejay Villafranca spent time with the garbage-pickers of Manila’s Smokey Mountain waste dump. Veejay’s powerful image, on page 56, and the story of a project trying to improve the lives of the pickers, suggests it was time well spent.