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The World’s New Economic Engines

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(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- On a recent trip to Singapore, I found myself counting cargo ships in the Singapore Strait as I stared out the window of a new high-rise in the Marina Bay Financial Centre. The southeastern view was unobstructed because several blocks between the building and the bay haven’t yet been developed. That entire neighborhood, a blank slate called Straits View, was reclaimed from the sea in the 1990s. Now it’s positioned to become a burgeoning business district—with plenty of space to grow upward in the years ahead.

Singapore’s transformation from bustling port to supercity in a matter of decades is obviously an ideal outcome when you’ve got room to run. Fresh from its star turn in the film Crazy Rich Asians, the city will play host to Bloomberg’s New Economy Forum on Nov. 6-7. There’s much that developing countries can learn from Singapore’s impressive trajectory.

As demographic trends and economic projections make clear, places such as India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil, China, Malaysia, Kenya, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa will drive global growth in the years to come. This issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, which complements the Singapore event, explores some of the daunting challenges these New Economy countries face and will continue to confront as they advance. We’ve sorted them into seven buckets and devoted a section to each: governance, urbanization, trade, inclusion, technology, finance, and climate.

One recurring theme across much of this issue is the difficulty of achieving a balance between growth and sustainability. The talk in Chinese policymaking circles these days is all about “high-quality growth”; less than a decade ago, the Asian dynamo’s development model could have been more accurately described as “unbridled growth.”

The inherent tension between these two approaches often plays out on the physical landscape. In my hometown of Portland, Ore., the pace of urban sprawl has been slower than in other cities, thanks to a pioneering 1973 law on land use planning. Yet each time I visit, it’s impossible not to notice the relentless creep of urban spaces into rural ones.

From Egypt to Ecuador, governments are making choices about how to fill whatever white space remains on their maps—and they’re enlisting investors and companies to help. When the mix of policies, capital, and technology is right, the future looks as promising as the view from that high-rise in Singapore.

Weber is the editor of Bloomberg Businessweek.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Cristina Lindblad at

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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