Once, Asia was a region defined by poverty. One of the most important issues for the Asian Development Bank (ADB) when it was established in 1966 was agricultural assistance to safeguard people against hunger in a region with a large and increasing population. Nearly half a century later, Asia's amazing growth and successful poverty reduction have exceeded the most optimistic forecasts. The ratio of extremely poor people (with a per capita income of $1.25 or less a day in 2005 purchasing power parity terms) against the region's total population was 55% in 1990, but dropped to 19% by 2010. Similarly, its share of global GDP -- including Japan and Australia -- increased from about 15% in 1970 to over 30% by 2013. The 2008 global financial crisis did not derail the region's robust growth momentum.
It is fair to say, however, that growth rates vary across the region. For instance, the Philippines, whose per capita income was well over that of Thailand in 1965, now comes last among the original five members of ASEAN. In contrast, South Korea, whose per capita income was lower than Ghana's half a century ago, has attained high-income status. While India remains a lower-middle income country, the People's Republic of China, the region's other giant, attained upper-middle-income status through sustained high growth based on reforms after opening its economy.