Asia can unlock S$6.9 trillion, 230 million jobs, via key development goals

A man looks at job information at an employment fair beside a street in Zhengzhou, Henan province, on Feb 19, 2014.
A man looks at job information at an employment fair beside a street in Zhengzhou, Henan province, on Feb 19, 2014.PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Businesses in Asia could unlock at least US$5 trillion (S$6.9 trillion) in market opportunities and create 230 million jobs by 2030 by implementing a few key development goals, global business and finance leaders said.

Asia's unprecedented economic growth has helped to reduce poverty, but future growth, prosperity and stability "are all under threat from the impact of a swelling list of environmental and social burdens", according to a report released on Monday (June 5) by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission. "There is the opportunity to shape a safer, more prosperous world," the report said.

Asia, home to two-thirds of the world's population, is extremely vulnerable to weather-related disasters, whose frequency and intensity could worsen as a result of climate change.

Meanwhile, more than 80 per cent of the region's population live in countries where inequality has risen over the past 20 years, according to the Asian Development Bank.

Pursuing strategies in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would turn these threats into opportunities and provide "the chance to consolidate and sustain the region's regeneration", according to the report, the Thomson Reuters Foundation said.

The 17-point SDGs, launched last year, include targets on eliminating poverty, providing clean energy, creating better jobs and tackling economic inequality by 2030.

The report identified four key areas with the most significant opportunities - cities, energy and materials, food and agriculture, and health and well-being - and specific projects such as affordable housing, renewable energy, reducing food waste and sustainable aquaculture.

The US$5 trillion value is conservative and more value could come from other sectors including information and communication technologies, education and consumer goods, it added.

The cost of realising these opportunities in the four key areas would likely require US$1.7 trillion of annual investment, the report said.

The commission said "blended financing", where public and philanthropic bodies take on high risk and more policy-sensitive investment, could fill the funding gap.

The report follows an earlier study that identified US$12 trillion in market opportunities and the creation of up to 380 million jobs globally in the same timeframe. Asia accounts for more than 40 per cent of these opportunities, the latest report said.

Of the US$5 trillion in business opportunities in Asia, around US$2.3 trillion could be found in China alone, US$1.1 trillion in India, and US$1.1 trillion in developing and emerging countries, the report said. The rest are in developed countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea.