The Asia Foundation

The Asia Foundation
Addressing the Critical Issues Facing Asia - 60 Years
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Economic Development

The Asia Foundation has a long history of supporting economic growth across Asia through both public and private channels. Our approach is to empower local entrepreneurs with the tools, information, and resources they need to seize business opportunities and to work with government, local authorities, and civil society to improve business environments at the regional, national or local levels. The Foundation's economic development program focuses on three core areas: business environments and policy reform; support to entrepreneurship, and regional economic cooperation, with special attention to women and environmental concerns. Read Program Overview.


A supportive business environment for private sector development, particularly micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), is essential to efficient markets which are integral to sustained economic development and growth. MSMEs make up the vast majority of all enterprises in Asia. Yet legal roadblocks, red tape, corruption, and financial barriers make it more difficult to do business. For women and minorities, discriminatory laws and socio-economic norms distort the business climate even further and represent additional challenges to starting, owning, and successfully operating businesses. The direct and indirect costs of unfavorable business environments do not just impact individual small entrepreneurs and their families; they impede development across Asia.

The Asia Foundation works on improving access to information and skills by MSMEs and assists them to reach out and network with financial institutions, other businesses, and service providers. Through our support for public-private forums, The Asia Foundation facilitates communication and partnerships between relevant stakeholders, providing local entrepreneurs and business associations, civil society organizations, and government officials the space they need to form alliances and address the challenges most important to them.

In addition to supporting entrepreneurship, The Asia Foundation has developed a powerful set of research tools, like our Economic Governance Indices, Business Climate Barometers, and Regulatory Impact Assessments, which measure the quality of local business environments and the costs associated with poor policies. By identifying the strengths and weaknesses of business environments, the Foundation's programs provide a roadmap for local business owners and public officials to identify and address specific areas for improvement.

In an increasingly globalized world, economic integration and cooperation is key to stable and healthy economies. While some regional blocs have been successful at fostering economic cooperation, like ASEAN, others, like South Asia remain trapped at low levels of intraregional integration. The Asia Foundation is working across the Asia Pacific to support regional economic cooperation.

Whether supporting reform at the subnational level or regionally across borders, The Asia Foundation is empowering local business owners and strengthening their collective voice to advocate for the changes they identify as necessary for their enterprises, families, and their communities.

Local Economic Governance Book

Innovations in Strengthening Local Economic Governance in Asia summarizes The Asia Foundation's experience designing and implementing programs aimed at strengthening economic governance in Asia. Read an excerpt by V. Bruce J. Tolentino, the Foundation's former Afghanistan Country Representative, Chief Economist, and Director of Economic Development Programs, or download the entire book.

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