Economic Growth and National Development in Southeast Asia

Estimated read time 2 min read

Henry Veltmeyer, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia

National development experiences in South Korea and Taiwan have long been the subject of diverse debates and discussions about the dynamics of economic growth, particularly in international development studies over the past two decades. The central issues in these studies relate to the existence of an “Asian model” of capitalist development: a theoretically simplified representation of the path toward national development traced out by Taiwan, South Korea, and other such “newly industrializing countries.”

The paper by Richard Grabowski touches on and resurrects a protracted and as-yet unsettled debate about the economic and political conditions of economic growth in Asia. One long-debated issue relates to the process of productive and social transformation involved in this development: the conversion of a traditional and economically backward agrarian society into a modern industrial system with a relatively high rate of economic growth and level of social development. The issue is whether or not and to what extent a process of industrial development is predicated on an “agricultural revolution.” Another issue relates to the politics of development: what type of state and politics creates the most favourable conditions for long-run economic growth? The paper by Grabowski reviews the various debates that have surrounded these issues and reflects on them with reference to recent research and studies.

The paper by Raúl Delgado-Wise and Noela Invernizzi also picks up and builds on a long-standing debate about the dynamics of long-term growth. However, this paper examines these dynamics from a different perspective by focusing on technology and exports, rather than agrarian transformation and the state, as factors of industrial development and productive transformation. This perspective is constructed on the basis of a comparative analysis of the experiences of South Korea and Mexico. Such a comparison is by no means new to the field of international development studies but the authors approach it from a different angle, and with reference to a changed context created by a process of globalization and the Mexican government’s efforts to align the economy within the new world order. The authors conclude that there are important differences behind appearances.

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