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Working Paper 12-18

Developing the Services Sector as Engine of Growth for Asia: An Overview

by Marcus Noland, Peterson Institute for International Economics
and Donghyun Park, Asian Development Bank
and Gemma B. Estrada, Asian Development Bank

October 2012


The maturing of the manufacturing sector in many Asian countries, combined with the relative backwardness of its services sector, has made services sector development a top priority for developing Asia. The authors' central objective is to broadly survey and analyze the current landscape of the region's services sector so as to assess its potential to serve as an engine for inclusive economic growth. Their analysis indicates that services are already an important source of output, growth, and jobs in the region. However, its productivity greatly lags that of the advanced economies, which implies ample room for further growth. The impact of the services sector on poverty reduction is less clear but the authors do find some limited evidence of a poverty reduction effect. One key challenge for all Asian countries is to improve the quality of services sector data. Overall, while services sector development is a long and challenging process, creating more competitive services markets by removing a wide range of internal and external policy distortions is vital for improving services sector productivity. As important as such policy reforms are, complementary investments in physical infrastructure and human capital will also be necessary to achieve a strong services sector.

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