A new book by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI), Infrastructure for a Seamless Asia, proposes establishing a Pan-Asian Infrastructure Forum (PAIF) to coordinate construction of environment-friendly transport, power, and communication networks across Asia region, alongside an Asian Infrastructure Fund (AIF) to finance the investment needed.
Moving towards this vision, said the study, would provide enormous benefits to all countries in the region, foster a higher degree of regional cooperation and deepen regional integration, according to the book.
Launching the book last week at the ADB's 42nd Annual Meeting in Bali, Indonesia ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda, said, "Asia has enormous untapped economic potential. Connecting its diverse economies and peoples through seamless infrastructure will help in achieving an integrated, poverty-free, prosperous, and peaceful Asia and the world."
Mr. Kuroda also said increasing infrastructure investment should remain a priority for governments during the current global financial crisis.
"Following the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis, countries with significant investments in infrastructure recovered faster than others. To mitigate the medium-term consequences of the current crisis, Asia will need to put greater emphasis on increasing regional demand.
"Consequently, regional infrastructure will need to be geared more towards supporting Asian production networks and regional supply chains."
Asia's infrastructure investment needs are huge and the book estimates that from 2010 to 2020, it will need to invest US$ 8 trillion in national infrastructure and US$ 290 billion in regional infrastructure projects.
On average, the region will need to invest around US$ 750 billion per year during this period.
Rapid economic growth in recent years has put enormous pressure on Asia's transport, energy, and communications infrastructure and unless these can be improved they will continue to be a bottleneck to growth, a threat to competitiveness, and an obstacle to poverty reduction, according to the book.
The book presents the major issues and challenges in developing regional infrastructure in Asia through fostering regional cooperation, as well as providing a practical framework for pan-Asian infrastructure cooperation.
The book is the first time such a study on regional infrastructure has been undertaken.
It says Asia's trade competitiveness, particularly in its increasingly sophisticated production networks, depends to a large extent on efficient, fast, reliable, and seamless infrastructure connections.
However, many parts of Asia, including inland and remote areas, landlocked countries and distant islands, are isolated economically as well as geographically. While some of the existing infrastructure is world class, much of it is below average.