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Just before the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ meeting in Cairns in September, the city hosted the inaugural Future of Tropical Economies Conference at James Cook University. Invited delegates met to consider and discuss the critical factors influencing growth and advancement of tropical economies across the globe. The conference aimed to build on the State of the Tropics report and to help chart a way forward for economies in the tropics.

“Over the past half-century the Tropics has emerged as an increasingly significant region. More than 40% of the world’s population now lives in the tropics – a figure projected to increase to 50% by 2050. The region generates around 20% of global economic output and is home to some 80% of the world’s biodiversity.” – State of the Tropics 2014 Report

Nations of the tropics are experiencing rapid economic growth alongside burgeoning middle classes and, whilst this presents significant opportunities, the region also faces some of the most pressing issues of our time. Environmental degradation, rapid population growth, social and economic inequalities and political instability continue to challenge the advancement of tropical nations and communities.

The Future of Tropical Economies Conference brought together thought leaders, policy makers and researchers to examine opportunities and challenges for tropical economies by presenting new ideas, sharing latest research and helping chart a way forward towards prosperous, equitable and sustainable economies for the tropics in the future.

To view speaker presentations and panel discussions see the links below.

View the conference program 6mb (pdf)

View the conference communiqué 3mb (pdf)


Special guests






Keynote address, Australian Treasurer the Hon Joe Hockey MP

Opening address, Queensland Treasurer the Hon Tim Nicholls MP

Address by Assistant Minister to the Qld Premier Mrs Deborah Frecklington MP


Tropical Talks  

Click the links below to access Youtube videos of the conference presentations. Links will open in a new window.

Professor Sandra Harding, Vice Chancellor & President, James Cook University – An overview of the State of the Tropics project

Mr Jason Baker, Chief Information Officer at IBIS World – “Setting the scene: a global perspective”

Environment (Marine, Terrestrial and Built)

Distinguished Professor William Laurance, Australian Laureate, School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Cairns – “A global strategy for road building”

Professor Jason Pomeroy, Eco-architect, Pomeroy Studio, Singapore – “Going green, going vertical: The tropical city of the future”

Dr Ian Poiner, Former Chief Executive Officer, Australian Institute of Marine Sciences – “Coastal and marine issues identified in the State of the Tropics Report”

Panel discussion with above presenters

Human Capital

Professor Graeme Hugo, Director of the Australian Population & Migration Research Centre, University of Adelaide – “A demographic perspective on future tropical economies”

Mr Nyunggai (Warren) Mundine, Managing Director of NyunggaBlack – “Human capital: Utilising our greatest asset”

Professor Ngiare Brown, Indigenous Health and Education, University of Wollongong; Public Health Medical Officer, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation – “Culture, policy and development: Harnessing potential in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities”

Panel discussion with above presenters

Economics & Development

Mr Huw McKay, Executive Director & Senior International Economist, Westpac Banking Corporation – “The Asian region and northern Australia: Some long run issues”

Mr Alex de Waal, Chief Executive Officer of Tourism Tropical North Queensland – “Facilitating the willing and enjoyable transfer of wealth between countries and socio-economic classes”

The Hon Keith DeLacy AM, Former Treasurer of Queensland & Chairman of Integrated Food and Energy Developments – “Scale, integration and energy: One path to the future”

What does it all mean?

General panel discussion: What does it all mean?  Panelists include: Professor Komla Tsey, Professor Jason Pomeroy, Mr Huw McKay & Mr Jason Baker. Moderated by Kerry O’Brien.

Professor Stewart Lockie, Director The Cairns Institute, James Cook University. Closing remarks.


Photos from the conference


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