Friday, Nov. 26, 2010

Asia's Challenge 2020

Most Asians under 32 have known only two kinds of economic growth: fast and faster. Young Asians have been alive at a time when armed conflict has been scattered and much of the region is home to the fastest sustained growth that our planet has ever seen. Many Asian countries have seen their economies double decade after decade.

But the next decade is filled with a new set of challenges — perhaps we can call them mid-life challenges. Many economies in the region have paid a high price to achieve growth in the short term, neglecting longer term social, environmental, and political issues. Growth is now slowing in many countries, and some problems cannot be resolved by focusing on economic expansion alone.

A generation that has known little but good times will be Asia's leaders of tomorrow. What are their worries and what ideas do they have to solve Asia's many challenges? TIME partnered with the Asia Business Council and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore to organize an essay contest this summer for Asian nationals under 32 to tell us in 3,000 words or less what they think is Asia's biggest challenge, why, and what can be done about it. The four winning essays follow.

Mark L. Clifford, Executive Director of the Asia Business Council, and Janet Pau, Program Director of the Asia Business Council