An ancient land, Central Asia occupies a geostrategically critical place at the heart of Eurasia, bridging the vast continental space that is Europe and Asia.
Central Asia today faces great opportunities as well as daunting challenges. The principal message of this book is that the region has significant potential and a unique opportunity to accelerate its economic and social development.
A major lesson for the future from Central Asians’ past is that they thrived most when they were open to the world and to each other in terms of trade, investment, and bold thought, with a commitment to intellectual and religious pluralism and tolerance.
The book articulates an aspirational vision for 2050. Under this vision, the region will have achieved widespread prosperity such that by 2050, a vast majority of Central Asians will be middle class with commensurate income and quality of life. Social, institutional, and governance indicators will have improved in tandem and reached at least the level of South Korea and Central Europe today.
No doubt, Central Asia will face many challenges: as individual countries and as a region. However, challenges also represent opportunities. The book identifies several of these in specific areas, including the efficient development of the energy and agriculture sectors; developing modern manufacturing and service industries that are well integrated into global supply chains; fostering inclusive human development; mitigating and adapting to climate change; integrating with global and regional markets; and improving governance and institutions. A particular challenge, cutting across all others, is how Central Asia manages its increasingly scarce and critical water resources.
Achieving the ambitious aspirational Vision 2050 is plausible, though by no means pre-ordained. Many of the policy and institutional reforms noted in this book will not come easy and take time to design and implement. Regional leaders, individually and collectively, will need to pursue them with a sense of commitment and urgency.