Asia's booming economies


Asia's booming economies

By Norm Dixon

Hong Kong-born SBS reporter Jane Hutcheon has spent six and a half weeks investigating Asia's fast-growing economies and the impact this development is having on ordinary people. She visited six countries and nine cities.

"Because of all Keating's rhetoric and the push that we have to get into Asia, I wanted to look at some of the issues and people in the region", Hutcheon told Green Left Weekly. "The idea was to pinpoint areas that we would have to be aware of in Asia's future — the next five to 10 years — and understand those issues."

Hutcheon visited Hong Kong, Laos, Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea and China. The series is called Rising Stars. Topics canvassed include the modernisation of Shanghai, the prospects of a united China, development in Laos, and relations between North and South Korea.

Her first of six reports, which screens on March 27, looks at China's economic boom. "People's are earning incomes that have doubled in the last three years. In China the system is still to take care of people from the cradle to the grave — they have their housing, education provided, all those sort of things — they have a lot of disposable income. They have US$150-200 billion of savings ... New shops are sprouting up all over the place."

However, growth is creating problems. "The railway stations are bursting at the seams. These people have come from country areas, from the smaller provinces to try to make their fortunes in the capital cities." Many do not find jobs; some even go hungry. Development is also lopsided in favour of the cities and a few wealthier provinces while most others are falling behind. Spending on public infrastructure is not keeping pace with economic development.

Hutcheon was fascinated by Laos. Her report focuses on the bridge across the Mekong River, financed by the Australian government, that will link Laos and Thailand. "It's still very unspoiled, things move in a different direction than they do in a lot of other countries. It's still quite isolated. They've only started opening up economically since 1988, but the fear is that they are such a small country that they might be swallowed up by their huge neighbour Thailand or by the many different foreign companies looking at basing their operations there."

Rising Stars will screen as part of SBS Television's Saturday and Wednesday editions of the Dateline current affairs program from March 27 until April 14.

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