“High and rising inequality can undermine long-term growth by wasting human capital, increasing social tension, weakening governance and increasing pressure for inefficient populist policies,” says Kuroda.
“Because the forces behind rising inequality are also the engines of productivity and income growth, options to reverse these trends become more complex,” he explains. “Disadvantaged regions must be provided with better infrastructure, not just in the form of better connectivity but also through policies and institutions that ease the flow of goods and services. Barriers to migration from poor and rural to more prosperous and urban areas should also be removed.”
Asia’s rapid development is producing leaps in technological progress, increasingly integrated financial and economic markets, and greater market orientation – all of which favour urban dwellers, and often magnify inequalities in human capital. Spreading the financial gains of these trends from capital owners to labour, and bringing job, education, health and social-service benefits to all parts of a nation will help ensure that wealth creation in Asia is more inclusive.
It is possible to create a capital from scratch. Brasilia was founded in 1960 to shift Brazil’s capital to a more central location than Rio de Janeiro. Nur-Sultan, formerly Astana, was installed as the capital of Kazakhstan in 1997 to diversify away from the largest city, Almaty, 1,000km away. And Australia created Canberra, with the proviso that the capital be more than 100 miles (160km) away from Sydney, the country’s biggest city.
Myanmar also shifted its capital, from Yangon to Naypyidaw, “the abode of kings” in 2006. Naypyidaw is in the centre of the country and Yangon is prone to flooding: Cyclone Nargis caused more than 100,000 deaths in 2008. However, Naypyidaw is a relative ghost town, a new suburb four times the size of London, tacked on to a town of 100,000 people.