In a couple of days, I will embark upon a trip to Asia. Every time I visit Asia, I can feel that dynamism and intensity are in the air. It feels like moving forward in time. Hardly surprising as under current trends, developing Asia alone will account for half of global GDP by 2050. Back to Asia really means back to the future.
This time, I will visit three countries—Cambodia, Korea, and Myanmar. These countries represent three different chapters of the great Asian story, each in their own unique way.
Korea is a country that has propelled itself from very low income levels to one of the world’s richest economies in an astoundingly short period of time. It has a well-deserved reputation for innovation, technological brilliance and hard work. I am convinced it can stay at the leading edge, especially by making labor markets more inclusive—including for women—and making the services sector more dynamic and productive.
Cambodia is in a different but also very promising place. In true Asian fashion, it has grown strongly in recent years, and is now a frontier economy, ready to take that next step to becoming a dynamic emerging market. To keep the momentum, it needs to continue investing in the future, ensuring that all participate in the prosperity of Cambodia, and ensuring that Cambodia participates fully in the prosperity of the region—including through ASEAN integration.
Myanmar is still at an earlier stage of development. It is now on the verge of a great awakening, a great opening to the world. Well positioned in the heart of Asia, at the intersection of India and China, I am sure that its future will be bright. Right now, its priorities are threefold. First, invest in the future—infrastructure, health, education. Second, include all people in development—the poor, and women too. Third, integrate further into the broader regional economy.
In each country, in addition to government officials, I will meet students, civil society and women leaders—the people destined to inherit the Asian economy with their boundless talent and energy. I am particularly privileged to attend the Myanmar Women’s Forum in Yangon, alongside one of my personal heroes—Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
In each country too, I will be stressing that the IMF is there to help for the long haul— to listen to them, to serve them, and partner with them as they reach out to take the inheritance that is rightfully theirs. I hope that they will see the IMF as a true and steadfast friend.
As always, I expect to leave Asia inspired and optimistic—and ready for my next visit!